February 06, 2008

There is much about last night’s result that are dispiriting. Ron Paul had respectable showings in Alaska and Montana, and broke 15% in many of the contests; however, it’s difficult not sense that hopes for a real breakthrough have vanished. This always seemed much more likely in places like New Hampshire”€”which went for Buchanan in 1992″€”and Iowa”€”where activist caucus goers can pull out upset victories.

The combination of seeing McCain as the likely nominee”€”and the possible addition of the Huckster to the ticket to sure up the South and Red states, which McCain was not able to carry”€”is turning my melancholy into despondency. 

Of course, as David Henderson reminds us, if someone some one told us last spring that Ron Paul, running as an antiwar Constitutionalist and small government candidate, would become an internet fundraising sensation and consistently beat Giuliani in the early primaries, we would have responded with disbelief. There is still much to celebrate.       

I was at Paul HQ last night doing interviews in preparation for a series of articles Taki’s magazine will be running on the Paul movement coming up next week, and there were clearly some signs of hope. Campaign Manager Lew Moore stressed that, failing insurgent victories in New Hampshire in Iowa, the campaign is focused on grabbing as many delegates as possible, and he sees the best chance for doing this in the caucus states.

Watching the cable news breakdown on the election, one gets the sense that a caucus is a slightly more complicated form of a primary in which delegates are awarded on a percentage basis, even if this is prefaced by some “€œcaucusing”€ (whatever that is.) The truth is that in something like the Nevada caucus (where Paul came in second) Romney won not a ballot-election but a non-binding preference poll. That is, of all the delegates who stood for election in their respective precincts, a majority “€œpreferred”€ Romney, but then they are in no way obligated to actually vote for him in the state and national conventions. The fact the 14% of Nevada delegates are Paul supporters, and that perhaps there are more who would back Paul if Romney dropped out of the race, is significant. 

There is also some interesting news coming out of West Virginia. After Paul failed to win on the first ballot yesterday, Paul backers promised Huckabee’s poeple that they”€™d throw their support behind the Huckster and put him over the top if he promised to give Paul 3 of the 18 delegates at play. This deal was announced by the Paul campaign and reported by the local media; however, it was ignored by the national media and the Huckster hasn”€™t exactly owned up to the arrangements made by his West Virginia supporters. Still, Paul was able to score a small victory.  

Let’s now fool ourselves: grasping for spare delegates, hoping that some caucus-state delegates will change their minds, and making backroom deals over what amounts to chump change is no way to win the nomination. Perhaps there will be a brokered convention and McCain or Romney will have to go searching for delegates from third or fourth place finishers. But as things are shaking out, it seems far more likely that McCain would team up with the Huckster and push out Romney than any of those three would form an alliance with Paul.

Nevertheless, as Ron Paul announced in his “€œcampaign progress”€ video last week, he plans to keep pushing on as long as his supporters keep funding him. And to be sure, fighting all the way into September would in no way amount to a flight of fancy or vanity. Arriving at the Republican convention with a contention of pledged delegates, all backed by enthusiastic supporters across the country, would do a great deal to establishing a permanent Constitutional and realist foreign-policy constituency within the Republican Party. This is a worthy and achievable goal, and it would amount to a far greater victory than anything gained by the not-so-Constitutionalist and open-borders Cato Institute and Reason magazine. Fight on!     


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