Checking on Paul's Chances


I really can't wait to get to New Hampshire, because I can't get a handle otherwise on Ron Paul's level of support. Lots of reporters are on the story now: The Iowa Independent thinks Paul can come in third in the caucuses; Ken Herman walks among Paul's flock in Iowa:

"Do I expect him to be president? I think so," said John Zambenini, a 22-year-old Dayton, Ohio, native who became the campaign's Iowa spokesman in October, a month after he first heard the name Ron Paul. "I think the more Americans know about Ron Paul, they will realize we cannot afford not to have him as president."

Paul's Iowa campaign claims more than 300 volunteers from 39 states and four foreign countries. Most are bivouacked at seven camps across the state and driven into towns for door-to-door campaigning.

Drew Cline, the incredibly on-the-ball Union Leader reporter, feels like Paul could do even better in New Hampshire.

The buzz surrounding the Paul campaign is reminiscent of the grassroots campaign Democrat Carol Shea-Porter waged against Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley last year. Polls showed Mrs. Shea-Porter trailing by 19 points in October. With almost no money and no support from the Democratic establishment, she came from behind and beat the congressman 51% to 49%.

Many are wondering if the polls are similarly missing Mr. Paul's momentum. Mrs. Shea-Porter and Mr. Paul have very different ideas about how to use the power of government, but both strongly oppose the war in Iraq. And Mrs. Shea-Porter ran last year as a fiscal conservative, so it's possible Mr. Paul could win over many Republicans who voted for her last year.

The difference, though, is that Paul's developed a Brad Pitt-at-Cannes following, pied-pipering in people from out of state who want to hear his speeches and then… can't vote in the primary.

Keith Murphy, a former Democratic campaign worker from Maryland who owns Murphy's Taproom in Manchester, has held several Paul rallies at his restaurant, which has become a regular hangout for the Paul crowd. When the candidate shows up, about 75% of the activists at an event are from out of state, he said, but on other nights it's about 50-50.

That's still not good, although since the summer I've seen more and more people showing up at Paul events who actually live in the states where they're being held: Virginia voters coming to a speech in Virginia, DC voters showing up to a DC Tea Party. Not like the Iowa straw poll, when the crowd was swelled by non-voting Nebraskans and Minnesotans and Texans.