Via Ben Domenech’s Transom comes perhaps the least surprising news of the month. That news is that almost exactly half of all Ron Paul supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire self-identity as non-Republican. Without the support of these Democrats and Independents, Paul pulls roughly the same trivial level of support he got in 2008. This has some important implications for the state of the race.
First, as Neil Stevens has been patiently noting here on the front page, this makes Paul’s level of support in Iowa potentially much softer than it appears. While these voters can at least theoretically register as Republicans the day before the caucuses and spend all day caucusing with other Republicans even though this is something they have never done before, that is a lot to expect effort-wise from all but the most dedicated chaos causers. New Hampshire and SC are marginally easier for party jumpers to game and these folks won’t have a Democrat Presidential primary to distract them. However, by taking the R primary ballot, they give up a chance to vote in any D contested races downticket. It is impossible to quantify how many, if any, would be Democrat Paul voters will be deterred by this.
Third, this is conclusive validation of what I have been saying since 2007 when I saw Paul’s hippie supporters en masse on the campaign trail. Although some of his support comes from the last vestiges of the Buchananites, the vast majority would otherwise identify as liberal Democrats (or be too high to self-identify) as anything. As more and more of Paul’s crazy and extremist past comes to light, it is clear that Dems have seen an opportunity to tar Republican primary voters by associating them with Paul’s odious views. So far, the media seems happy to oblige pushing this narrative.