Ron Paul is still surging. I have an article forthcoming in the next issue of The American Conservative forecasting the New Hampshire primary and the role that participants in the Free State Project and other libertarian activists may play therein. At the time I wrote the article, I made the fairly bold forecast that Paul will score between 15 and 30 percent, likely closer to the former number. That forecast is now looking less and less bold.
Two polls today show Paul in the lead in Iowa: PPP has him at 23%, three percentage points beyond Romney, and Insider Advantage has him at 24%, six percentage points over Mitt. Meanwhile, PPP‘s poll of New Hampshire has Paul at 19%, good for second place behind favorite son Romney. CNN/Opinion Research puts Paul at a record-high 14% nationally, while Gallup has him at a record high for their polls, 11%.
If Paul wins Iowa, which looks like at least a 50-50 proposition right now, then all bets are off in New Hampshire. The conventional wisdom is that a Paul win hurts Gingrich and helps Romney, but if Paul can use a win in Iowa to put a scare into Romney in New Hampshire, where Romney has always been expected to run away with it, Romney comes out badly bruised as well. Mainstream commentators are finally waking up to the possibility that Paul could win Iowa and New Hampshire. Right now, I’d put the probability of that occurrence at somewhere around 15%, but if it happens, it would be an earthquake.
Incidentally, the cross-tabs on these polls are enlightening. In the PPP poll of New Hampshire, Paul’s support among those who are strongly committed is 21%, indicating his firmer base. (Romney, however, is at 41% among firmly committed voters, implying he may be able to limit damages from an Iowa loss.) Paul is viewed overwhelmingly favorably in New Hampshire (53-38), which talking heads tell us is not the case most other places. Paul is the second choice of 49% of Gary Johnson supporters (who pulls in 1% himself), 30% of Michele Bachmann supporters, and 25% of Jon Huntsman supporters. Since Huntsman is doing well in New Hampshire, this seems to confirm my suspicion that to a certain degree he and Paul are struggling over a similar pool of voters. Paul is also the second preference of 23% of Romney voters, indicating the degree to which Paul’s appeal has broadened to moderates and independents. A final point of interest is that Paul is leading the field with 28% among those who view foreign policy or national security as the most important issue in the election.
Paul’s path to victory in New Hampshire, it would seem, would require a win in Iowa and an unexpectedly poor finish for Romney. If Romney’s core supporters started to drift away, Paul and Huntsman could expect to benefit.