Libertarian History/Philosophy

A Night at the Caucus, and a Ron Paul Victory Party That Wasn't


As you saw below here on Hit and Run, despite some pretty widespread hope and anticipation from both the media (a week ago and earlier tonight) and a lot of his eager fans and grassroots volunteers (until late tonight), Ron Paul failed to win, or even come in second. This was not, it seems (at least the failure to win part) a huge surprise to more higher-level campaign staff.

As a Ron Paul admirer since 1988, having the sweet hope of victory held over my head for a moment led to a frustrating and dispiriting night. But–while all discussions of "moods of the room" are suspect, based, as they must be, on long talks with what by necessity will be a narrow unscientific sampling of the room–I seemed to be perhaps the most bummed person at the Paul "victory party." Even the many Iowans who started today expecting a win are still satisfied and eager footsoldiers in an ongoing Ron Paul Revolution.

Before the results poured in, I sat in on the caucus process in Precinct 5 in Ankeny, held in a high school gym about a mile from Paul's state HQ. More than 200 people showed up. I didn't stay long enough to see the official count. But the GOP precinct organizer–Ron Paul supporter Ross Witt–had the various candidates' fans bunch up in separate parts of the gym to pick their spokespeople, vote watchers, and potential delegate candidates. When that happened, Paul's crowd was the largest (and contained the only African-American in the room).

Talking to caucusgoers before the business began, I met an actual example of a type I was always told existed in abundance: a would-be Ron Paul fan turned off by his foreign policy. He was a young Ankeny-area attorney who used to consider himself a Paul man but decided Paul's fervent dedication to not starting pre-emptive wars was too punctilious in the face of the perceived threat of Iran. His buddy with him was undecided when he came in, though leaning Bachmann. (Coming from the libertarian tradition of highly rationalistic politics derived from first principles, I find the meandering and seemingly senseless approach to these decisions of the average undecided voter somewhat confusing and maddening–this guy was able to see a lot he liked in everyone from Romney to Santorum to Paul.) I met a heavily bearded working man in dirty clothes who expressed his love for Paul as deriving entirely from "I just want less government." He wasn't sure he could wait an hour to vote, but did. (The majority profession I heard from Paul men I spoke to tonight, between the caucus and the campaign's results-watching party, was some sort of laborer/manual worker. Paul is not just pulling pencil-necked geeks and weirdo intellectuals.)

I talked a while at the caucus with Paul precinct co-captain Scott Hanson, a successful salesman for Homemakers Furniture (million-dollar club multiple years). Hanson is a longtime fan of the world of electoral politics for the glamor; he has tales of having met nearly every major figure in the GOP of the past few decades and has known Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad since he was a boy. He tells me he has always enjoyed just palling around with pols, but finds Paul is the only one who inspired a serious devotion in him since Reagan–because he sees Paul as the only politician with solutions to the serious problems that he sees presenting America with a "do or die" crisis. His love for Paul has even made him realize Sean Hannity, who he used to love, isn't as stalwart as he believed.

I met a couple of ladies who were part of the huge wave of freshly-minted Santorum fans, having turned from Bachmann. Like all Iowans, they've been getting double-digit calls from candidates every day for the past few weeks; one of them had gotten Paul-sponsored anti-Santorum calls in the past couple of days (which led Santorum to call Paul "disgusting"). She was disappointed, and was aware of Paul's previous reputation for not indulging in that sort of attack politics. Paul's campaign has decided to eschew such high-mindedness this time around, though rarely will you hear direct attacks on specific competitors from Paul's own mouth.

Despite Paul fans' reputation for endless willingness to go anywhere anytime and tell people about Ron Paul, no one was at the caucus handing out Paul literature. Both Santorum and Perry had a couple of canvassers doing so for them. (Pair of young ladies for Perry, less-young men for Santorum.) This lack of Paul muscle-on-the-ground at the caucuses was also noted by Paulites at at least three other precincts, and all of them were surprised no volunteers were there trying to sway last-minute undecideds. While I have no macrostats on this, Paul fans from two different precincts reported 10-15 percent of the Paul votes at their precinct coming from non-Republicans who re-registered Republican that evening at the caucus.

As I left the caucus to drive to the Paul results-watching party, CNN was reporting Paul in the lead based on early entry polls, though that disappeared quickly. Hundreds of Paul fans and media–in nearly equal numbers, it seemed–filled a ballroom at the Courtyard Inn in Ankeny.

I met a lot of non-Iowans there on basic Ron Paul fan roadtrips, including a solo sojourner from north of Minneapolis, a pair from Chicago, and a team from Texas. (The first four people I randomly approached to chat were all out-of-staters.) I learned, again, that Ron Paul fans think hard and act hard on how to promote their man, with nearly everyone I met having their own particular plan for Paul promotion, and nearly all saying that everyone in their lives knows all-too-well that they are Ron Paul People.

I found Iowans are mighty confused by Santorum's unexpected rise to the top, and mostly blame it on his rising too fast to be vetted properly and thoroughly by the voters. I ran into two sitting state legislators who are Paul fans (Kim Pearson and Glen Massie) and two who will be running on a Paulite platform this year for state legislative seats (David Edwards and Matt Devries). Most of the people who actually work for the campaign didn't want to say much for the record tonight or were not readily available for comment. 

I ran into a few people who were surprised, given how roundly Paul won their precinct, surprised enough to want to see the specific per-precinct figure breakdown before they were sure the results were legit. But that seemed more frustration than conspiracy theory. One Paul dude made the case–which I concur with–that the past 24 hours of Fox News amounted to a free half-million attack ad buy against Paul from his enemies.

I met a team of RevolutionPAC (a Paulite superpac) supporters, including Dan Johnson and John Moore. Moore is a Veteran for Ron Paul with two Iraq stints behind him. He tells me that "as bullets were whizzing by my head in Iraq Irealized I wasn't making this country safer," especially when he came home to the Patriot Act and crippling partially war-caused crushing debt. Johnson and Moore are on the road riling up the grassroots independently of the campaign, and working with to produce Paul-promoting Net video content. Johnson tells me RevPAC is raising money to further spread their "Compassion of Ron Paul" ad, featuring a black man with a white wife who Paul helped for free as a doctor. 

I talked to Paul volunteer Allen Huffman, who works for Wells Fargo. Like every other volunteer I spoke to, his stories of Paul activism were largely based in working the phones–finding Paul supporters, finding what their issues were and selling them on those issues, and making sure the Paul-committed were energized, motivated, and helped in getting out to the caucuses today. He told me months ago a Paul campaign staffer gave a talk to a squad of volunteers in which she laid out almost precisely what happened with Paul's slow, steady rise–with the caveat that she said the goal was to get Paul to number one on caucus day and not a day earlier. Having risen to the top in some polls before Christmas may well have been one of Paul's problems.

As a piece from Business Insider being sent around by the Paulfolk on Facebook all day and night indicates, when it comes to actually winning the delegates of the state of Iowa, tonight's non-binding caucus results mean nothing at all. Actual delegate votes happen later, and the caucus results don't bind the delegates. Tonight, after the presidential vote and after lots and lots of people leave (I'd say at least half walked out after the vote at the caucus I attended), they vote on delegates to the county convention, which in March will pick delegates to the state convention, which will later pick delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

I have some anecdotal evidence from tonight that Paul people were disciplined enough to actually stay long enough to win delegate seats, often by being the only people there even willing to be one by the time the selection process came around. One young Paulite bragged to me about how he was quite sure the Paul team had the delegate issue in the bag after tonight; when I asked him to elaborate on how he knew, he noticed the notepad in my hand, asked if I was a reporter, and pretty much ran away from me when I said I was. (The Paul campaign imposes a very tight message discipline, that is, it orders most of its employees and volunteers not to talk to reporters. Most of them obey.)

That said, there is more to "winning Iowa" than winning Iowa's delegates. Winning the caucus vote adds to the whole momentum thing, the whole designated frontrunner thing, the whole media attention and respect thing.

There is also, on the other hand, the whole "painting a target on your back" thing, which Santorum most definitely did tonight. The happy spin from Paul higher-ups has them still chugging ahead with their money, their fundraising prowess, their devoted fans, their great ideas that no other candidate can steal, and without the tsuris that a frontrunner Paul would surely draw on himself. Paul insisted tonight only he and Romney have the money and momentum to actually fight it out nationally through primary and caucus season.

And that is a happy spin indeed. The happiest spin, though, came from Paul's chin-up presentation to his fans after he was clearly third place. Paul said that his campaign and fans have reintroduced an idea into the Republican Party and American politics that is vitally needed: that "freedom is popular."

Paul's speech to his people tonight:

Reason's Paul coverage. My upcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution

NEXT: Iowa Caucuses: Santorum! Romney! Paul!

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  1. Vote Santorum – We Put the “Fun” in Fundamentalist!

    1. Grand Theft Iowa. Playing now.

  2. A couple of colleagues, self-described “progressives”, exulted that Paul finished 3rd. “What,” I said, “you would prefer Romney or Santorum, who both scored a zero on the ACLU’s recent civil liberties grading of the mainstream candidates?!”….crickets.

    1. :facepalm:

    2. What? Democrats care more about being able to steal other people’s goodies than about civil liberties? WHO KNEW?

  3. Dr. Ron Paul came in the top 3 and we should be disappointed? You don’t really understand how tough we are and Dr Ron Paul has the benefit of experience. He’s been doing this for a long time and we are just getting started.

    1. I’m sad he didn’t win, but he actually finished marginally higher percentagewise than he had been polling. Considering the week of sustained, rabid attacks from disingenuous fools in the mainstream media, I’d say he did fine.

  4. Another typical Reason hit piece on Ron Paul. “As a Ron Paul admirer since 1988, having the sweet hope of victory held over my head for a moment led to a frustrating and dispiriting night.” Yeah, right. If he were really a Ron Paul supporter, he would have sucked Ron Paul’s dick.

    No homo.

    1. I angrily and repeatedly accuse Paul supporters of wanting to suck his dick, but in reality I wish I could suck his dick.

      1. Whasamatta, Yip Yap – tired of sucking your own?

  5. Mitt Romney wins Iowa by 8 votes.

  6. Santorum scares the shit out of me. He’s a right-wing progressive who wants to tell people what to do with their own lives and bodies for their own good. Fuck you Iowa for giving him extended life.

    1. He says states should have the right to ban birth control:…..81291.html

      1. You gotta love how disingenuous the HuffPo posters are. On the one hand, they insist on the right to privacy ensure we should all have access to birth control. On the other hand, they insist the government the right under the commerce clause to restrict things for our own good. Which one is it?

  7. What happens if Paul manages to landslide in New Hampshire? Theories?

    1. The results are coming in from New Hampshire and we are projecting that the winner will be Ron-…..(techincal difficulties)

      1. I “enjoyed” the (CNN, IIRC) technical difficulties last night when a Uniformed Soldier was giving his reasons for supporting Paul.

    2. But do you have any reason to believe that will be the case? I think he’ll still finish a strong second as Newcular Titties vindictively hacks away at Romney, but I was really hoping a win in Iowa preceding this would give Paul some validation.

      But it’s hardly over, Paul can avenge the liberty movement by royally screwing with the GOP’s nomination process.

      1. Romney gets hit by a bus, Santorum gets hit by a bus, Gingrich gets hit by a bus, every Republican candidate but Paul gets hit by a bus, Barack Obama gets hit by a bus.

        1. We saw what you typed, Res… and we saw what you were wearing when you did it.

        2. Sounds a lot like the way Obama because a State Senator and then a US Senator.

        3. This just in…Said bus is elected as the next President of the United States.

        4. This election is a horse bus race!

      2. I predict he’ll get 60% as many votes & delegates as Romney from NH.

    3. In New Hampshire, Ron Paul will come in at a strong….third. With 22% of the vote. Remember last time everyone thought he just might win and he got 9%? It’ll be much better this time, but Paul won’t win.

  8. The thing is Ron Paul pulled a 3rd place finish despite the media doing everything in their collective powers to put him down. They boosted rick Santorum as much as they possibly could for the past 2 weeks to draw away from Paul. Romney was not going to get the evangelical votes ….solution push Rick Santorum.

  9. Thanks for the brain dump Brian, lots of interesting info. Much of it encouraging but I too am sad that he didn’t pull it off.

    Predictable, but sad to me. I’d hoped freedom had just a tad strong grip on the mainstream.

    If the establishment has its way and nominates Romney, I’m going to vote which ever way I figure gives the O-Boy the best chance of winning. Even if I have to plug my nose and vote for Obama directly.

    I figure a Romney win will do more damage in the long haul. If Obama wins then momentum for a Ron Paul follow-on act could persist.

    If Romney wins, I’m afraid it’ll be a decade before this chance comes around again and who knows what mood circumstances will have people in by then.

    1. I agree.

      On the bright side, Romney doesn’t seem to have a good chance against Obama.

    2. Paul will be 80 in 2016. How long can the old boy keeping running?

      1. Rand is almost as good, and no newsletter baggage.

      2. Rand or possibly even GJ would have a good shot.

    3. “I loves me some NDAA!”

      1. Sure sounds like it.

  10. MSNBC is reporting that Ron Paul still got the most delegates (9)!

    So is business insider:…..egy-201201

    Another report said that even though he finished third, he still gets 7 delegates same as Romney and Santorum.

    1. It’s hardly over, and Paul’s still got a fighting chance, but what I fear is that all the negative publicity and that near-universal “PMG HE IS LIEK SOOOOO ICKY” factor the media’s been attaching to him might push him off a cliff. Let’s hope not.

    2. Delegates aren’t decided till months from now.

    3. CNN showed it as Romney 11, Santorum 11, and Paul 3 delegates. I don’t know how they know that. The delegate deciding process isn’t over and it’s quite byzantine.

  11. The Santorum performance takes much of the focus of negative media attention away from Paul. We’ve seen this happen with Romney a couple of times this election and I believe it may work in a similar fashion for Paul.

  12. It’s time for you libertarians to realize your masturbatory fantasy over your racist lunatic dream candidate is over.

    Man up and get behind the only candidate who will stand up to these warmongering, gay and minority murdering Republican thugs like Rick Santorum and work with OUR President to continue enacting sane and responsible policy both foreign and domestic.

    1. That’s a gooood cracker, there. GOOD cracker.

    2. …the president who just signed the NDAA about a week ago? That president?

    3. Ah yes, the predictable spokesperson from crypto-fascist bizarro world.

      1. …have “our” president. I didn’t vote for him.

        Fuck that, I didn’t vote for the five men who were president BEFORE this one.

        Go back to polishing the knob.

    4. The President that thinks it’s okay to assassinate Americans without a trial?

      Or just lock them up indefinitely?

      Or force us to buy health insurance from private companies?

      Granted, the Republican candidates aren’t any different on those issues. But at least they aren’t committed to drive up the price of energy as much as possible to enrich their buddies…

      1. force us to buy health insurance from private companies

        Better that than the alternative; at least the private companies can make the zany scheme of American healthcare somewhat profitable instead of a complete wealth sink. It’s the same impulse that gives us private prisons and military contractors: because the government either can’t or won’t control costs in they have to bring in outsiders to do it. This gives them increased managerial flexibility while at the same time allowing the politicians to bitch about (and potentially get in the way of) the decisions that increased flexibility enable. The ultimate good for the political class is the ability to have it both ways; nobody can have a reason to vote against you once that happens.

        1. Better that than the alternative;

          The alternative of leaving us the fuck alone? I don’t think so.

          1. Me neither.

          2. Well, duh, Leave Me The Fuck Alone is always the best option. Lesser of two evils, though; gun to your head which would you prefer? At least there’s multiple insurance options out there.

    5. How many countries does Obama have to bomb before your dumb ass wakes up? 100? All of them? Even ours?

  13. These morons will just convince themselves Santorum is the next great libertarian hope and that undermining the country by opposing the President is the “principled” stance.

    1. …not read *one* fucking anti-Santorum post here?

    2. undermining the country by opposing the President

      WTF? So President Obama defines the country’s needs, not the electorate. Got it. Thanks for the lulz.

  14. Damnit, went to sleep Paul was leading, wake up to this. Where’s the frickin’ booze?

  15. As a Ron Paul admirer since 1988…


    1. I sold out to be a congressman from Texas before you even heard of me. Now donate to my fucking campaign!

  16. Has the salty ham tears legendary thread been nuked?…..mmy-and-sw

    1. That’s really fucked up.

    2. [Darth Vader NOOOOO!.jpg]

    3. WTH? Web squirrels! Fix this! Chop-chop!

  17. Meh, it’s OK.

    Since Paul can’t win, the second best outcome is for his candidacy to expose how untenable the traditional Republican coalition is.

    If Santorum is the nominee, that traditional coalition is all done. Over. There’s no more overlap left, not even rhetorical.

    1. A coalition with Republicans is always untenable. Nobody sane believes in voting for Republicans.

      Now you libertarians just need to let go of some of your weird hangups and start working together with the only people who can save this country from the Republican mobs.

      1. The liberaltarian coalition is on hibernation from the Hit & Run comments until a Republican is president.

      2. I’ll vote for any Republican but Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich is a rabid blue mule that’s covered himself in really shitty, flaky red paint in an attempt to seem conservative, and Santorum’s a neo-conservative, but worse than W by orders of magnitude. Since I want neither a proto-monarchic quasi-empire nor Australia 2.0, but our republic back, those two can eat shit and die in a coal fire. Fuck them.

        If Romney takes it away, I’ll vote for him. But Paul’s still got a chance, and I’ll be supporting him all the way.

      3. But who’s going to save the country from the Democratic mobs?

  18. That’s literally insane. This country cannot survive another Republican president. Now is the time for libertarians to admit they want quality jobs, health care, education and so on no matter how many African-Americans also receive them.

    And then they can get out there donating, working and making sure that the Republican threat is turned back and we have another four years of the most accomplished President in modern history along with a returned and strengthened Democratic majority that can stand up to the Republicans and make sure that things are getting done for all of the American people.

    1. Apologies, meant to reply to Bee Tagger above.

    2. D- Needs moar [BRACKETS]!!1!

    3. You’re just a progressive, right? Not an actual socialist? Because there’s nothing I hate more than pinkos.

      1. I’m neither, I’m an American. And I’m proud of being an American because of what we’ve accomplished together and just think there is no reason we cannot continue to work together

        I’m baffled why libertarians and Republicans and people like Ron Paul despise Americans working together to forge a better and stronger America.

        1. No libertarian despises people working together if it’s voluntary, you twit. What we oppose is being forced into your various labor camps and ponzi schemes.

          1. 1..2..3..4..and he’s down for the count.

            Good job, mr simple.

          2. “Working together” is an offensive euphemism, if participation is mandatory.

        2. I’m neither, I’m an American.

          In other words, you’re a big mouth loser with more surety about your righteousness than you have sense or knowledge.

    4. That’s literally insane. This country cannot survive another Republican president. Now is the time for libertarians to admit they want quality jobs, health care, education and so on no matter how many African-Americans also receive them.

      Unsupported hysteria, unsupported accusation of racism. Fuck off.

      And then they can get out there donating, working and making sure that the Republican threat is turned back and we have another four years of the most accomplished President in modern history along with a returned and strengthened Democratic majority that can stand up to the Republicans and make sure that things are getting done for all of the American people.

      And screw liberty, right?

  19. Ron Paul did better than I thought and this is from someone who supports Paul. I thought more people would chicken out and vote for Obama-lite (Romney). Despite his close second I don’t expect Santorum to last.

    1. Santorum lives forever! You can’t kill it!

      1. Santorum does NOT, repeat NOT, wash out of terry cloth. Word to the Wise.

  20. Watching Paul on MSNBC, Fox, and CNN. He looks TIRED. Really tired. What was funny to me was that they all softballed the hell out of Romney and Santorum asking about electoral stuff and what they need to do to win, etc. but when Paul would come on they’d hammer him with specific policy questions. On Fox they asked “What foreign policy expert agrees with you?” He didn’t name one, but he could have pulled out a list of people who interview on Again, he looked tired and beat. CNN had a panel rapid fire stupid questions at him and Paul started seeming like he couldn’t hear them. It was kinda funny.

    1. Paul’s an old man and has the toughest path to the nomination. Any signs of fatigue are unsurprising.

  21. How did RP fare 4 years ago? Now he’s pulled in over 20% of the vote. In the most insignificant Caucus. Only 3 winners in IA have gone on to the nomination. RP’s message has been trending upward. Santorum is just the neo-con of the week. Its a long battle.

  22. Were the early-reported precincts heavily for Paul? I checked the Associated Press results (that red bar-graph thingy) on my phone around 9:00pm, and I SWEAR it had Paul at around 40% with everyone else at 10% or lower. I was elated!

    Checked again a half-hour later, and his lead had narrowed to 1%. Did I imagine that early very-strong lead?

    1. Paul did lead in the early reporting. When I first checked results with 18% of precincts reporting, Paul was leading 24% to 22% for both Romney and Santorum. When I checked back an hour or so later at 49% reporting, Romney and Santorum were both at 23% and Paul was at 22%.

      1. Yes, I remember when Paul was in the lead by a point or two (9:30ish), but my earlier check-in revealed him to be ahead by more than 20% percentage points. (I can find nothing to corroborate this early strong lead online, however. A mirage?)

        1. When Warren County started reporting there was a moment when Paul had about 50% of the vote – but that was of twenty-or-so votes overall. It’s here, at 8.42pm.

          1. Thanks for corroborating that, Hidalgo.

  23. Should be interesting to see how that all works out.

  24. Hey, we got what we want – a chance to discuss military adventurism and Empire policy. Ed Rollins and other talking heads have now warned the GOP to treat RP respectfully or risk losing
    RP supporters’ votes. RP really has to hone his message now, especially in regards Iran and the bomb. He should reprise the Gene McCarthy 1968 role. Newt promises to be less respectful as he feels RP is a dangerous maniac. The
    Saturday debate in New Hampshire should be interesting.

    1. RP really has to hone his message now,

      That’s the one thing he seems pretty much incapable of doing.

      He’s pushing for fundamental change. You don’t get that with meandering musings. You get it with focussed rhetoric. Something like:

      “I am for a strong America, one where Americans are free to go about their daily business free from interference by meddling bureaucrats,free to keep the fuits of the labors, and free to lead their lives as they see fit. The other politicians in this race think you aren’t smart enough or strong enough to live your own life, at least not the way they think you should live it. You have to make a decision: can you stand on your own two feet, or do you need the government to prop you up and hold your hand to get through the day?

      “I am for an America safe from attack. Much of our military is being wasted on social engineering projects all over the world, not defense of America. America cannot be kept safe by a military that is bogged down all over the world doing things that contribute nothing to national defense.”


      1. All right, who are you and what have you done with our real Messiah?

      2. Rand, your ability to impersonate your father and yet sound more electable is really creeping me out here…

  25. It was a win for Ron Paul, The media was trying to dismiss him before he even got vote one so don’t claim there was “anticipation from the media” the only thing they anticipated was trying to slander Ron Paul with half truths and misquotes and keep talking about him being “electable” and also remember the media said that if Ron Paul won it would discredit Iowa, ya tell the Iowan people don’t vote for ron paul.. the country will laugh at you and said if he won at Iowa the people that mattered was in 2nd and 3rd, well ron paul’s 3rd… now what? also the media covered santorum non-stop for 72 hours when no one was going to his meetings, if you look at the numbers 66% of santorums vote was decided in the last 48 before the vote. the media is just corrupt period they are trying to discredit a candidate that big government fears, shows who’s pulling their strings huh?? Oh and thank you Main Stream Media for helping the government cover up and hide the NDAA passing, such corruption and violation of our Constitution.. and the main stream media supported it I watch RT now, they tell the truth and do not slander anyone!

  26. Ron Paul’s campaign is brilliantly organized! Very impressive!!

  27. “One Paul dude made the case–which I concur with–that the past 24 hours of Fox News amounted to a free half-million attack ad buy against Paul from his enemies.”

    You got that right.

  28. That said, there is more to “winning Iowa” than winning Iowa’s delegates. Winning the caucus vote adds to the whole momentum thing, the whole designated frontrunner thing, the whole media attention and respect thing.

    Did it do much for Bachman when she edged Dr. Paul out in the straw poll about half a year ago?

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