Iowa Caucus: Did the Anti-War Candidate Really Just Win??

Ron Paul taking questions in Manchester, NH

Ron Paul

Iowa Caucus Results:

With all the votes counted, Mitt Romney at 25%, and Rick Santorum (a mere 8 votes behind) will split the delegate tally.  This split helps any other challenger, Ron Paul in particular, who came in at 22%.

Gingrich (14%), Perry (11%), and Bachman (5%) have been relegated to the second division.  Bachman called it quits.

But What does the Iowa Republican Caucus mean?  It is like a quiz in school, to get a pulse of the course, and to show off.  Although both John McCain and Bill Clinton came back from 4th place in Iowa to ultimately win their party’s nomination, most presidents have been victorious or a close second in the state.  It is the sign of strong messaging, strategy, and supporters.  Iowa (99% White voters, overly Evangelical Christian) is followed by the New Hampshire Primary, on January 10th.  These two early quizzes will show who is prepared for the much larger battles, as candidates compete for headlines and counter the backlash.  Mitt Romney will surely be the big spender of the primaries, while Rick Santorum will likely flounder as the Tim Tebow of the GOP.  It is difficult to see Gingrich or Perry surging in New Hampshire, while Ron Paul won the last straw poll in what is Romney’s territory.

For a primer on the Republican state-by-state math, and the delegates won to make the nomination, go here.

The Year of Peace and Justice v. War and Repression

This year represents a unique moment over the past half-century of traditional politics.  This year the anti-war message, and anti-“Drug War” message is coming not from Obama and the Democratic Party.  Instead, it comes from a Republican- one who stands to be assaulted by the mainstream media, by his own party, and the bipartisan elite who play all sides.  Senator Ron Paul has gained support amongst voters of all stripes who truly believe the government should have a limited role in telling others what to do.  Some call it “libertarian,” while others say it is “conservative,” yet such a philosophy reaches into foreign policy, drug policy, and health care.  The government cannot create a global economy and legislate wealth and poverty, but it can decide what is directed by a barrel of a gun.

As in many political races, much assessment often comes down to charisma.  How well did his speech go?  Do Christian voters connect with the candidate?  Can he chop wood on camera?  Sometimes, we pause to see where a candidate has been on certain issues.  Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, now in the most opportune of years, complicates the simplicity of what is typically hollow as a reality TV show.  He actually has views on criminal justice, the seemingly untouchable issue- an issue that directly affects 10 million Americans under current government supervision, millions more who have tangled with the police and courts, and many millions more with a family member in such a predicament.

The federal and state governments spend over $60 billion per year on incarceration, and rarely will you see this as an “issue” of debate or commentary in a political race.  The War on Drugs,which has been waged overwhelmingly in low income communities, has been a trillion dollar fiasco, and yet presidential candidates are reluctant to even answer a question on marijuana regulation.  The hypocrisy of presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama admitting to activity they support as being “criminal” (i.e. smoking marijuana, who knows what they have not admitted to) only adds to the mystery of why this is a non-topic in political races.

Independent Voters and Ron Paul

Rep. Paul is the only candidate who has more support among Moderate/Liberal Republicans than among Conservative Republicans.  This translates to a possible windfall amongst Independent voters; and consider that there are more politically unaffiliated Americans than all the registered Democrats and Republicans combined.

Younger Support for Ron Paul

Paul also has a landslide lead in support among 18-35 year olds.  This has two significant meanings: First, the young earnest field campaigners that are so crucial for door-knocking, phone calling, and Get Out the Vote strategies (yes, classic political tactics do work).  If properly organized, the Paul campaign can inspire the type of Obama masses that came out for the 2008 election (it will be interesting to see how many Obamaniacs remain as true believers, apologists, or party supporters). Secondly, the other candidates are relying on support that is older and, traditionally, more fickle in the early going.  Paul is more likely to hold onto his base, and we see those older voters gravitating to Paul in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Many Peace/Justice Voters Likely to Choose Paul over Obama

Obama has already shown his cards on the wars, and reneged on even the simplest of promises: closing Guantanamo Bay prison.  His support for absolute power, once reviled under the Bush regime, has solidified his stature in the minds of voters- many of whom are disenchanted and angry former supporters.  Obama would likely prefer an election against any Republican except Ron Paul.

The myth of Democrats defending the poor, the urban areas, and communities of Color has been debunked.  The Good Cop/Bad Cop of two parties has been over-exposed, particularly when Obama pushed back against popular support to decriminalize marijuana.  He has even continued to crack down on medical marijuana.  The actions under Clinton’s administration were largely overlooked, as the average American was unaware of the domestic militarization happening in their name.  Independent media has since gotten up to speed while the number of impacted people has doubled since the massive influx of federally subsidized urban police forces, and the billions of dollars sunk into prison construction.

Gov. Rick Perrys Demise Boosts Paul

Electoral mathematics: Candidates usually carry their home states.  Paul is from Texas, good for the second-most nominating delegates (155) in the country.  He would be a sure winner of Texas vs. Obama, but it would be a major windfall if he defeats Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary on April 3rd.  It is likely that multiple candidates will have dropped out by April 3rd, and Perry may be included.  Elections are expensive, and the Texas primary is nearly a month after Super Tuesday, when Romney can celebrate his landslide in Massachusetts, and Gingrich in Georgia (assuming The latter does not continue to be neutered).

January 31st is a key day when, Florida, the first significant state (50 delegates) holds their primary.  Anyone without a fashionable showing in Iowa (28 delegates), New Hampshire (12 delegates), South Carolina (25 delegates), and Florida are likely to find themselves out in the cold when it comes to fundraising.  If Rick Perry does not make a strong showing in South Carolina (either a win, or a close second), he will feel the pressure of stepping down and focusing on his Governor job in Texas.

Virginia is for Lovers and either Ron Paul or Mitt Romney

The most interesting Super Tuesday story will be in Virginia.  Although it is one of the larger prizes of the day (49 delegates), only Paul or Romney can win it.  None of the other candidates qualified with enough verified petition signatures.  Ironically, the GOP has been the party of election sanctity, never finding a restriction of voting rights they did not like.  Voter ID legislation, and cries of election fraud, have become a Republican calling card.  Rick Perry actually filed suit against the Board of Elections in Virginia, claiming that it is too onerous to check all those signatures… Yet surely he would not claim the same about a general election, that it is too “onerous” to verify every last Latino, young person, and urban residents young and old  (or those least likely to have valid ID).  Ultimately, will Paul or Romney parlay a Virginia victory into clear frontrunner status?

The Bottom Line:

Iowa was not supposed to be Paul territory at all.  The TV pundits, who have a near-unanimous support for global military intervention, do not want to talk about the viability of Ron Paul being the Republican presidential nominee.  Iowa was supposed to be bought by Romney’s media dollars as the “best chance against Obama;” or won by an Evangelical Christian with a basic pastor’s message of “Christianity against evil;” or won by the political “genius” of Newt Gingrich.  Yet the true winner is the independent-minded voter: the one rejecting the mainstream assumption that militarized power over people, foreign and domestic, “creates freedom and democracy.”  Nobody with a military base, or police outpost, overlooking their home has ever been free.

About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on
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