Ron Paul's strong showing in Nevada—it looks like he'll come in second—should rejuvenate the hopes of any supporters dismayed by his disappointing finish in New Hampshire. Judging from CNN's entrance polls, here's the most interesting aspects of his success:
He's dominating the independent vote. That shouldn't be a surprise, but it's worth stressing. A full 63 percent of independent voters in the Republican caucuses backed him. McCain is a very distant second, with 11 percent.
He's doing pretty well with Hispanics. I was all set to post an early entrance poll that had Paul in a statistical tie for the lead among Hispanic Republicans, but the new numbers have him finishing third, with 15 percent. (Romney finished first, and McCain is second.) Still, 15 percent is nothing to sneer at, and it's an interesting counterpoint to Paul's support among the Minuteman crowd. A rainbow coalition!
His support reaches across economic classes. It is often noted that the libertarian movement is predominantly white and male. It is less often noted that its class composition is extremely diverse, ranging from multimillionaires to people practically living on the street. In Nevada, Paul seems to be doing respectably among voters at all income levels, with his best showings among the middle and lower-middle classes.
The antiwar vote lives. Among people who cited Iraq as the most important issue in the election, Paul got 29 percent of the vote. Only Romney did better.
The "other" Christians like him. I'm not sure what to make of this, but while Romney carried the Protestant, Catholic, and (of course) Mormon vote, Paul got a plurality of "other Christian" ballots. Anyone care to speculate what sects those might be? (If you say "Branch Davidian," you get a raspberry.)
Elsewhere in Reason: My take on the "libertarian west."
Update: CNN is continuing to update its numbers, so some of those figures are now obsolete. I should note that Romney has pulled ahead of Paul in that mysterious "other Christian" category, though his lead is narrow. On the other hand, Paul has the overwhelming support of the "no religion" demographic—not a group that usually flexes its muscles in Republican politics.
Paul's support in the other categories has also dropped by a few percentage points, though there haven't been any radical changes. I'll update this post with the final numbers once they're available.
Update #2: Nearly a day later, there are two significant changes to Paul's totals. First: His Hispanic support has dipped to 7 percent, which isn't atrocious—most of the candidates not named Romney or McCain are clumped around the same area—but also isn't as interesting as I initially thought. Second: He's still in second place among voters citing Iraq as their top issue, but he's now tied with McCain at 21 percent each. So while Nevada's antiwar constituency is still lively, the local pro-surge contingent is active as well. (Either that, or this is a replay of New Hampshire's curious results, in which many antiwar voters fell behind the passionately pro-war McCain.)
Paul still dominates the independent vote, though his total there now stands at 51 percent. (McCain is second, with 13 percent.) As for those "other" Christians, several readers point out that their ranks would include the various Eastern Orthodox churches. I wouldn't expect there to be many Orthodox worshippers in the Silver State, but there's more than zero, and that's all you need. I figure there's a fair number of LDS splinter groups in Nevada, too; I'm not sure if they'd be counted as "other" or as Mormons.
Finally, I'll note that among the small number of Republican voters making $15,000 to $30,000 a year, Paul finished second with 19 percent of the vote—a product, perhaps, of his populist approach to libertarianism. First place went to Romney, who got 53 percent—a product, perhaps, of hallucinogens in the drinking water.