Rand Paul

Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Nevada, and the Silent Armies of the Non-Voting

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Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed reports from Nevada, where Ron Paul fans have had an outsized influence on the state Party, to find that it seems many of his old supporters can't see fit to go to Cruz (as many of them seemed to in Iowa) or Trump (as many seemed to in New Hampshire).

Many of them, she reports, are in fact still working hard to get voters to caucus for Rand Paul, even though he's suspended his campaign.

Gray did find one ex-Paul operative, Carl Bunce, who is for Cruz now. He told Gray

that he was trying to get others on board, but that it was slow going; loyalty to the Paul family is still high, and many say they won't back another candidate.

"The liberty movement is a bit fractured at the moment," Bunce said.

Cruz's campaign manager didn't want to say they are going out of their way to pick up Rand's leftovers:

"I don't know that we fundamentally change our strategy that much more," Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe told reporters on Saturday, the night of the South Carolina primary, when asked if libertarians were the linchpin of the campaign's Nevada strategy. "It's a lot different race now because of tonight and because of people getting out of the race and who's actually invested in that state."

Lacking real rigorous polling, we are only making educated guesses as to where the "Paul vote" went. If it's true as one poll indicated that New Hampshire saw only around 15 percent of first-time GOP primary voters, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that many people who voted for Ron Paul in 2012 inexplicably (from a libertarian mindset) went for Trump.

However, it is always worth keeping in the front of your mind when talking about where any potential vote goes that for the majority of potential voters in a primary (or caucus), the most popular choice is to not vote at all.

In my rough empiricism from communicating with hundreds of serious Paul fans in 2008 and 2012, from the ranks of the previously non-voting is where a lot of "the Paul vote" came.

It could well be that in Nevada at least, Ted Cruz is not a strong enough force to keep them from returning there.

Bunce hopes that's not the case, and wants the liberty minded to keep themselves in the GOP game:

"It's important for us to participate so we can retain that influence within the party," Bunce said. "If we step out for two years, it's a bunch of Trumpholes taking over. If we back out and don't find someone to support and participate in the county conventions, in the state conventions, we will be left out in the cold."