Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ron Paul reaches for the ceiling

What is the ceiling for support for Ron Paul? He's got a great campaign network, good fundraising, ads on TV, a strong message, name recognition, and no other candidate splitting his pool of voters. He should be running at his maximum level, at least for this campaign. These primaries are a test to see what his ceiling is and the maximum number of people who will vote for Paul's platform.

In a different post, I declared that Paul's ceiling is 15%. My prediction was too low since he's already gotten 21% in Iowa and 23% in New Hampshire. His libertarian platform may not play so well in the socially conservative south, but the rest of the country is pretty fertile ground.

Paul gave a great semi-victory speech after the New Hampshire primary. He's a good speaker in debates, interviews, and even sound bites. He doesn't suffer from many of the characterizations that plague other candidates. People don't see him as:
a Wall Street stooge, Wall Street raider, lobbyist, elitist, rich, dishonest, greedy, flip-flopper, philanderer, unethical, pompous, vindictive, opportunist, contemptible, theocratic, hypocritical, empty-suit, uptight, dumber than dirt, whiny, liar, insincere, or slick.  
His negative characteristics are usually variations on these: out-of-touch, dangerous to the GOP, crackpot.

If Paul ends up in a two-man race with Mitt Romney, we will all get to see what his ceiling is. But more important, the GOP will have a stark choice: they can embrace the candidate who actually follows their small-government ideals, or they can choose someone from Bush mold (but one who promises to do better on the finances).

With Romney polling at a national average of 34%, and Paul getting 12% to 20%, that leaves at least 46% who have to make that stark choice. Will Tea partiers, who were so outspoken on the constitution, gravitate to Paul? They should,  if smaller government is a more important message than being the top military power in the world.

I don't think the Tea partiers are that pure. They may say they love the constitution, but they want to be top dog with no apologies. Because of this, I think Paul is close to his max at 23% in New Hampshire. He'll do better in some western caucus state, but over all, his ceiling is probably 30%. That's better than 8% in 2008, and it becomes the floor for 2016*. We shall see.

* That's not really the floor for 2016. But it's a pleasant idea that 30% of the Republican party would be honest in their small-government goals.


Couves said...

I've seen a number of Paul vs. Obama polls in which Paul gets 40%+. Ron Paul generally does better than every Republican except Romney.

Here's one recent poll:

ModeratePoli said...

The poll you cite is an "apples-and-oranges" situation with the topic of my post, which was Paul's ceiling in the Republican presidential primary. I'll grant that if Paul was the nominee, many Republicans who wouldn't support him in the primary will reluctantly vote for him in the general. In effect, if he became the nominee, his ceiling in the GOP becomes his new floor.

But what does the poll you cite mean? All Republican challengers do better against Obama than against other Republicans.

Maybe the take-away is that it's dumb to talk about floors and ceilings because it depends on the match-up.

But I do think there is something of more interest here. How strong are libertarians in the GOP? How strong will they be in choosing candidates for the House and Senate? How strong will they be in 2016?

You can ask the same questions about other subgroups within the Republican party: What is the ceiling for social conservatives or flat taxers or bomb-Iran neocons? It looks to me as though the libertarians are the most numerous subgroup, but they don't yet wield influence in proportion to their numbers. I hope to see exciting times as they gain that influence.

Couves said...

MP - I just thought it was interesting that Paul polls better vs. Obama than everyone but Romney. It suggests that Paul is more popular with the general electorate than he is within his own party... which is understandable since the GOP is a conservative party, not a libertarian one.

As to ceilings, I think it's kind of silly -- every time someone announces Paul's new "ceiling," he exceeds it.

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, it's a moving ceiling, just like a moving target.

Couves said...

"it's a moving ceiling, just like a moving target."

I thought a ceiling implied a fixed point beyond which one cannot go higher. Unless you’re joking with me, I really don’t know what it means to establish a “moving ceiling.”

You raise interesting issues, I just don't think it makes sense to speak in terms of ceilings. There's no reason to believe that the right libertarian can't get votes from a lot of non-libertarians, even in the primary -- just as conservatives get votes from a lot of non-conservatives. There are lots of partisan-institutional barriers that will push back against the nomination of a libertarian, but I don’t think it’s because voters themselves are unwilling to consider supporting them.

"I hope to see exciting times as they gain that influence."

Agreed! The Ron Paul folks are incredibly energized, even after their loss in 2008 -- it's hard to imagine anyone else pulling off this kind of comeback. Add to that the fact that Paul got almost 50% of under-30 voters in Iowa and NH, and I think there's a near-certainty that there will be more of a libertarian presence in the future GOP (including Congressmen, etc.).

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, Sorry, moving ceiling was a joke. (But remember that goalposts get moved too sometimes.)

I look forward to libertarians speaking up more in politics. I felt that the tea party didn't bring very many coherent positions to discussions. With libertarians, that's not a problem.

I know that libertarians skew young, and I wouldn't be surprised if most older libertarians soften their positions under the duress of experience.

As for who makes it into Congress, good question. There's a lot of political dynamics to go through this winter and spring before Congressional primaries. So I don't know how things will swing. Interesting times.