An Open Letter to Iowa Skeptics

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I wrote in November that Ron Paul has a very good chance at winning the GOP presidential nomination due to his enthusiastic support. The purpose of the current essay is to re-examine this hypothesis after the amazing Q4 fundraising. Just to give it all away up front: Ron Paul can win the Iowa caucus.

In the theme of Open Letters started by Walter Block, this is an open letter to anyone (but especially Iowans given that tomorrow is the big day) that thinks voting for Ron Paul is “wasting a vote.” The idea that votes are wasted is usually a valid concern in a democracy. But, the Iowa caucus tends to have a low turnout (6% to 7% in the last two presidential rounds), so an outpouring of support from a dedicated base can make a huge difference. That is, if the overall voter turnout is low, your vote counts more than if everybody in the state casts a ballot. The downside is that a state like New Hampshire, where Ron Paul consistently polls well but has a 50% voter turnout, is actually more difficult to win (but keep reading for the silver lining).

Minority Rules

One thing that I’ve been thinking about since my last essay is whether it is a good thing that in a democracy, the minority can win. I say this because, although there are a number of Ron Paul supporters, I think it is safe to say that we are not the majority of the public. Yet, we are more fervent and can change the outcome of this election, as well as the future of this country, using the democratic process. Overall, I think many LRC readers will have already concluded that this is a major problem with democracy: “Democracy is the system in which 51% of the people tell the other 49% what to do.” But should I feel bad about using the system to my advantage?

I’m okay with using the system for two reasons. First, elections are already decided by the minority: the political class. As Higgs writes, “the oligarchs, the Praetorian Guards, and the supporting coalition — uses government power (which means ultimately the police and the armed forces) to exploit everyone outside this class by wielding or threatening to wield violence against all who fail to pay the tribute the oligarchs demand or to obey the rules they dictate.” This, of course, includes the MSM, which has been pushing for Clinton 44 for a decade.

Second, the message is wonderful: FREEDOM. We just want to tell the “other 49%” to not infringe on anyone’s rights to life, liberty, and property.

So we are the polar-opposite of the current ruling class fighting for the freedom of everyone else. How could I feel bad about that???

The Numbers

Last time, I used the latest CNN poll. It was put out on Nov 5th, so it did not include the post-money bomb poll boosts for Paul. I concluded that if, using a national average for polling and voter turnout, Ron Paul would win the nomination by a small margin if only 50% of his supporters tromped off to the polls. I repeated this analysis using the most recent CNN poll, which was done Dec 6th–9th (i.e., after the first money bomb and before the second). I also used a different voter turnout of 9.8%, thanks to an LRC reader who sent me this link (Thanks, EL! Note: I averaged 2000 Super Tuesday turnout to get 9.8%). The results? Ron Paul wins the nomination with a 6% lead over Giuliani!

But, EL and others who wrote to me in November pointed out that the national averages are tricky. Voter turnout varies a lot from state to state, and this year we have a Super Duper Tuesday, which could really throw things off. So I used the pollster.com averages for national and state voting, along with the individual state turnouts from the 2000 primaries. Pollster.com averages recent polls from various sources, so it is a conservative estimate of how the vote may go. Yes, I am still assuming that these polls are accurate, so if Ron Paul comes in at 4% nationally, I say that 4% of registered voters favor him. As has been pointed out many times on LRC, these polls are probably very inaccurate. But since they are underestimating Paul’s support, my analysis is a conservative view and the conclusions hold in that Paul will do “better than expected.”

% turnout

2000 primary

additional Paul supporters

total for other candidates

total for Ron Paul

Iowa

6.8%

43.2%

6.8%

50%

New Hampshire

44.4%

5.6%

44.4%

50%

South Carolina

20.2%

29.8%

20.2%

50%

Nationwide

9.8%

40.2%

9.8%

50%

In Iowa, Ron Paul polls at 6.2% with Huckabee at 31% and Romney at 26%. If 6.8% percent of Huckabee and Romney voters go to caucus, but 50% of Paul supporters go to caucus, Paul will win with 35% of the vote and an 11-point margin over Huckabee (!). Here’s the rest:

`

Iowa

New Hampshire

South Carolina

national

Giuliani

5%

15%

15%

21%

Huckabee

24%

13%

23%

22%

Romney

20%

36%

21%

15%

McCain

8%

25%

12%

13%

Thompson

7%

3%

16%

10%

Paul

35%

8%

13%

19%

Ron Paul’s place

1st (Winner!)

5th

5th (tight field)

3rd (3-way tie)

So what is the silver-lining on Ron Paul losing New Hampshire? Well, first, he’s going to have amazing momentum after handily winning Iowa, so he probably won’t end up 5th. Second, the spread in South Carolina, and presumably other states with moderate 20% turnout is 10-points between first and last…not exactly a comfortable lead for the “top-tier” guys. Third, Romney wins New Hampshire, but he’s not in the running nationwide, so it won’t matter.

And, finally, the worst-case scenario, using the MSM polling numbers: Ron Paul ends up in a national 3-way tie with Giuliani and Huckabee, so it goes to convention. And we all know that the motivated Paul base has been planning for convention and is ready to take it by storm.

So, to conclude my Open Letter to Iowa Skeptics: The message is powerful. The support is real. And Ron Paul will give us our nation back if we fight for the message for eleven more months.

January 2, 2008