Magazine article The American Conservative

Live Free or Die?

Magazine article The American Conservative

Live Free or Die?

Article excerpt

Many of the results from New Hampshire were surprising, but none was as disappointing as Ron Paul's fifth place showing. Coming off a decent 10-percent finish in Iowa, where no one had expected Paul to do well, the campaign seemed poised to strike gold in a state filled with independent-minded, libertarian-leaning voters. Columnist Jim Pinkerton even hazarded a guess that Paul might win New Hampshire. Instead, he received just 8 percent of the vote.

In the end, Iowa rewarded the campaigns staffed by zealous activists, and New Hampshire punished those lacking careful preparation and professionalism. Where Paul won more votes with less effort and expenditure in Iowa than almost any other candidate, no other campaign missed a greater opportunity in the Granite State. In what should have been his natural constituency, Paul lagged behind every other competitive contender and was outpolled by the candidates for the nanny state (Huckabee) and the warfare state (Giuliani). Now Paul's grassroots rebellion seems stalled, flush with cash but bereft of electoral prospects.

Optimistic theories that pollsters were missing a mass of first-time voters turned out to be false. Instead, the home of the Free State Project and the birthplace of the "Constitutional President" opted for neither liberty nor the Constitution.

Some factors were frankly beyond the campaign's control. In a record-turnout primary, the impact of dissenting candidates in both parties was reduced. Two top-tier candidates attracted most of the independent voters in New Hampshire's open system, so there was more competition for these unaffiliated voters than there had been in other cycles. Most frustrating for an antiwar conservative candidate, Paul only received the votes of 16 percent of those who disapproved of the war in Iraq, while a large number inexplicably went to John McCain, the most ardent advocate of the surge and a leading apologist for the disastrous war. In fact, four in ten McCain supporters had a favorable view of Ron Paul.

Where the other notable rebellious Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee, was able to tap into pre-existing networks of churches and homeschoolers to make up for his lack of organization and money, there are few ready-made support systems for antiwar constitutionalists. The idiosyncratic nature of Paul's campaign makes it an odd fit for most institutions and interest groups. Finally, FoxNews excluded Paul from its final debate on the Sunday before the election, which may have undermined his position among late-deciding voters. …

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