With no last minute surprise, Rand Paul's vote in the Iowa caucus tonight could have been roughly predicted from the most recent polling. It was discouraging for those who hoped for a last-minute surge to third driven by student turnout and over a million voter I.D. and GOTV [get out the vote] calls.
Paul's campaign issued a statement tonight trying to spin the results positively, which read in part:
Rand Paul had a strong top-five finish by placing ahead of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and the last two Iowa Caucus winners tonight. The voters spoke for the first time, and they showed that they believe everyone in our country should have the liberty to make the most of their lives, not just the well-connected and the political establishment.Whether the issue is constitutional government, a balanced budget, a rational foreign policy, or preserving the entire Bill of Rights for all citizens, Rand Paul is the only one standing up for conservatives and liberty-loving Americans.
Tonight's vote reveals that the race for the White House is wide open. Dr. Rand Paul believes his voice is important to the debate, and calls on ABC and the RNC to make sure he is on the stage next weekend in New Hampshire. The results today demand it. "Every election we are told by the party establishment that the times are too dire or risky to try freedom as a solution. They say that the message of liberty and personal responsibility must wait until next election. But tonight, the people of Iowa proved that the time is now. We have never been more hungry for personal freedom and a restrained government. I'm grateful to my supporters here in the Hawkeye state, and I look forward to continuing the fight for liberty in New Hampshire," said Dr. Rand Paul.
I also spoke by phone tonight with Matt Kibbe, formerly of Tea Party-identified liberty activist group FreedomWorks and now with the Paul-supporting unaffiliated SuperPAC Concerned American Voters [CAV], which also worked on GOTV for Paul in Iowa.
While "we wanted Rand to do better, given where he has been it was a credible showing. I do think that Cruz and Donald Trump and even oddly enough Bernie Sanders were eating away at Rand's potential voting bloc," Kibbe says. "It heightens the now obvious divide between the liberty vote and the anti-establishment populist vote."
Kibbe interprets Cruz' victory as "people voting for the anti-establishment candidate that they believe will stand up for them" and that compared to Trump, "Cruz is more credible as a constitutional conservative."
Kibbe is not as viscerally turned off by Cruz as many libertarians are. "If you look at Ted Cruz' background, his training as a classical liberal is impressive," Kibbe says. "He's read Mises and Hayek, he's read all the books [libertarians] have read and I believe he deeply understands those ideas."
Kibbe admits that "I'm more ambivalent today because he has flip flopped on criminal justice and he's flip flopped on surveillance and most worrisome is, what is his foreign policy?" Cruz seems to have "neoconservative foreign policy ideas, things like 'make the sand glow'–that's dangerous rhetoric and I'm not sure what he means by it."
Cruz or no, Kibbe says that "there is still momentum to move forward [with Paul], it was a very credible performance tonight and we [CAV] will be in it as long as Rand is in it." They are currently involved in social networking efforts in New Hampshire and ground work in Nevada.
When I wonder whether it seems likely now that a significant portion of the Ron Paul Revolution in 2012 really incorporated the roots of the libertarian vision (though it is still by no means certain where the "Ron Paul vote" has gone, and much of it may have just returned to the vast hordes of nonvoters), Kibbe says that even voters who are never going to embrace the full vision of movement libertarianism in an intellectual, bookish manner are still capturable by libertarian-leaning politicians.
"Ron [Paul] did an incredible amount of education to a huge new population and if you look at younger guys like [congressmen] Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, I see tremendous opportunity for what I call libertarian populism, a combination of rage against the machine overlaid with serious ideas, solutions and principles and that to me is the answer. This is not an academic affair," Kibbe says. "I think if we go back to citing footnotes from Mises we've failed the liberty movement."