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March 10, 2012 at 1:07 PM

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The Ron Paul Vote

As of March 10, Rep. Ron Paul has not won any state contests for the Republican presidential nomination. But look what he has done for his libertarian brand of Republicanism. Sheahan Virgin at noted March 8 that of the 22 contests up to that time, Paul had bested his 2008 showing in 21 of them.

The exception, Idaho, is not a fair comparison because in 2008 it was held late in May when Paul’s only opponent was John McCain, whereas this year all the major candidates were involved. In the figures below I leave out Idaho, and also Virginia, where Paul won 40 percent of a primary vote this year—but was on the ballot with Romney only.

Take the caucus states first. They favor Paul because his supporters are more ideological and motivated. Here are the changes in Paul’s caucus votes from 2008 to 2012:

Maine, 18% to 36%
North Dakota, 21% to 28%
Minnesota, 16% to 27%
Washington, 22% to 25%
Alaska, 17% to 24%
Iowa, 10% to 21%
Nevada, 14% to 19%
Kansas, 11% to 13%
Colorado, 8% to 12%

Now consider the comparable changes in Paul’s primary votes from 2008 to 2012:

Vermont, 7% to 25%
New Hampshire, 8% to 23%
South Carolina, 4% to 13%
Michigan, 6% to 12%
Missouri, 4% to 12%
Massachusetts, 3% to 10%
Oklahoma, 3% to 10%
Tennessee, 6% to 9%
Ohio, 5% to 9%
Arizona, 4% to 8%
Florida, 3% to 7%
Georgia, 3% to 6%

As in 2008, the Paul vote is the weakest in the conservative South and peaks in the states that border Canada. No doubt he will do well in Montana, which was his best state in 2008, with 25% support.

This tidal move upward in the Paul vote has gone virtually unnoticed because nowhere has it resulted in a victory. Paul forces are a minority, but they are a bigger minority everywhere. That is important because Paul is a Republican of ideas different from the other candidates, and who whose supporters are not interchangeable with theirs. The Paulites are a distinct faction, and are now a major one.

Despite Paul being the oldest candidate in the race, his supporters are the youngest. In Cable News Network’s exit poll in the two-way Virginia primary of March 6, among voters 17 to 29, Paul got 61 percent, and among voters 30-44, 63%. In Michigan, where Paul had 12 percent of the vote overall, voters 18 to 29 gave him 37 percent, according to the CBS exit poll.

In the New Hampshire primary, an exit poll by Fox News showed Paul winning 46 percent of the voters 18 to 29, 35 percent of voters 30 to 39 and 38 percent of those who had never voted in a primary. Paul also won 47 percent of Republican voters who described their religion as “none.”

Virgin, the analyst at, asks whether the Paul supporters may be the future of the Republican Party. It's too early to answer that question, but not too early to ask it.

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