Richard Blair argues that Ron Paul won the Iowa Straw Poll, sort of: Since Paul proved he has an activist voter base that isn't going anywhere, he can perform in the caucuses and primaries.
In the caucuses, Romney and Rudy split the non-social conservative GOP down the middle. The remaining fundie candidate (Brownback?) will draw in the radical religious right vote. McCain (if he's still in the race by then) will draw in the nucking futz vote. Thompson is the wildcard in all three of the above demographics.
And Ron Paul is sitting pretty. Why? Because Paul's organization is catering to the truly conservative demographic—those who see Iraq as a big mistake, and those who really want a libertarian-style minimalist government. And, from what I've seen and read from supporters of Ron Paul, they are "true believers" who aren't going to be peeled off by the marquee names on the ballot. They are ideologically driven, not motivated by the pretty face or where the big money is lining up.
I'd bet the remaining "fundie candidate" will be Huckabee, but let's parse the rest of this. There actually is a small core of Republicans who oppose the war or Bush's handling of it, which I think peaked around 35 percent before Ken Pollack used his telepathic powers to convince them the surge was working. Paul is actually contouring his message for different audiences—witness the pro-life talk in Iowa—but there's a good 70 percent of the GOP base that, right now, would head for a Derek Jarman film festival before it would vote anti-war.
Did Ames change this? That was the point of my piece. Right now Paul's grassroots supporters, while getting savvier all the time, haven't mastered organization and politics the way, say, Pat Robertson's or Pat Buchanan's forces did. So Blair's right that the Paul people are highly motivated and will never jump to another campaign, but I don't think he gets just how hard it'll be to out-organize those campaigns.