It is easy to dismiss Ron Paul’s fervent supporters as young and clueless. And it is easier to dismiss his candidacy and campaign as having no rhyme or reason, as the GOP establishment desperately wants to do.
But Ron Paul is not leading in many recent Iowa polls based solely on support from young libertarian voters. In fact, Paul is leading because his campaign organization has diligently put together a coalition of caucus-goers who have found his fiscally conservative and non-interventionist foreign policy messages to be appealing. A recent Public Policy Polling poll that was released Tuesday evening even shows that Paul does the best among Evangelical voters, showing the the strength of his organization on the ground and proving that his strong poll numbers have been earned.
In that poll, Paul leads Mitt Romney, 24 percent to 20 percent, but also leads the field among self-identified evangelical voters with 24 percent of the vote. In addition, Paul also leads among non-evangelical and non-Republican voters as well.
In many ways, Paul has organized Iowa much in the way then-candidate Barack Obama did four years ago.
In 2008, Obama ran circles around his Democratic opponents, most notably Hillary Clinton, in terms of organization and enthusiasm. The Obama campaign felt they had to win Iowa in order to convince other voters states that followed that Obama was a viable candidate. And they executed their strategy with precision.
But while Obama was organizing in every precinct and caucus to rack up delegates that enabled him to eventually win the Democratic nomination and presidency, what would be a counter force — the Tea Party movement — was brewing on the Republican side among supporters of Ron Paul.
On the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party in December of 2007, Ron Paul’s supporters shocked the political world by flooding his coffers, raising millions of dollars in what was called a “money bomb.”
Paul’s organization then, though, could not capitalize on the infusion of cash that poured in just weeks before the 2008 Iowa caucus because they were not well organized. Back then, they were more of a message than a movement.
Four years later, much has changed. Two weeks ago, the campaign raised over $4 million dollars and, unlike in 2008, they have a sophisticated campaign infrastructure on the ground that will enable them to turn that money into votes, as evidenced by a spate of polls that show Paul in first place in Iowa less than a week before Iowans vote on Jan. 3.
In many respects, Paul is attempting to do on the Republican side what Obama did on the Democratic side in 2008. Win the Iowa caucus by out-hustling and out-organizing everyone and ride the momentum that will come from that to win the nomination.
And while it would be easy to dismiss Paul’s support as solely coming from pot smoking college students, his organization is much more sophisticated and broad when examined closer.
Paul has always had a fervent floor of young supporters. But in the last four years, his organization has sought to broaden this base by not only targeting young and libertarian voters but also by specifically targeting Evangelical and the home schooling community in Iowa.
Gaming the Caucus
To win Iowa, the Paul campaign knew it had to not only capitalize on its natural base of support — young, libertarian minded voters — but also reach out to the social conservatives who dominate the Republican nominating contest.
Fortunately for Paul, the fact that independents and Democrats can change their registration on the day of the caucus to participate in the Republican nominating contest gave the campaign even more incentive to actively target and retain young voters — even anti-war Democrats and independents — who found Paul’s message appealing.
But they also knew that they could not compete in the caucus with just the youth vote. So they meticulously began a four year project to cobble together supporters from many of Iowa’s social conservative groups, including evangelicals and influential home schoolers.
Mike Heath, an ordained Christian minister, has visited over 300 houses of worship across Iowa and is Iowa State Director for the Ron Paul 2012 campaign, and has cobbled together a coalition of evangelical and religious voters for Paul.
Reverend Phillip Kayser, an influential pastor from Omaha who church has a footprint in neighboring Iowa, said he supports and endorsed Paul for a number of reasons.
“He is the only candidate who holds to a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution,” Kayser said. “He is the only candidate that has a consistent philosophy of economics that will truly resolve America’s problems. The economics of each of the other candidates is flawed, and in my opinion grossly un-biblical.”
Kayser also said that even though he is not a perfect candidate, Paul was the only candidate that he could endorse.
Rev. Brian D. Nolder, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Church in Pella, Iowa, also endorsed Paul.
“The idea of supporting Dr. Paul is pretty new to me,” Nolder said. “ Though they seem radical and out of the mainstream at first, careful study will show that [his views] actually reflect the conservatism of our nation’s founding fathers, our founding documents, and the first decades of our history. More importantly, they reflect biblical principles.”
He added: “I support Dr. Paul because he wants people to be liberated from state dependence and returned to dependence on God–through hard work, entrepreneurship, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor–and assistance from families, local communities, churches, and other private, charitable organizations.”
Nolder said that Paul also had “the most concrete plan to shrink the Leviathan of federal government, and he has the track record to show that he will do what he says. He wants to do exactly what the Constitution is designed to do, but which we have been moving away from for the past century: restrain the scope and size of government, particularly at the federal level.”
What makes Paul more appealing than other libertarians in Iowa, though, is his pro-life views. It may also speak to the fact that, in the end, pro-life issues may still trump all else in Iowa.
“As a Christian, I am also very concerned about the issue of human life, since each of us is uniquely made in the image of God,” Nolder said. “Dr. Paul has always been pro-life, refusing to practice abortions throughout his long career as an OB-GYN.”
Nolder also said that Paul’s “respect for life” extended to his foreign policy and he was “concerned that our country has moved further and further away from ‘just war’ principles of the Christian tradition that used to inform so much of our foreign policy.”
“While I am no pacifist, I am increasingly concerned about how quickly we seem to be resorting to violence to resolve international conflicts, and whether the ‘wars’ we have recently been engaged in are truly just,” he said. “Dr. Paul promises to return us to the modest, humble foreign policy that Gov. Bush articulated in the 2000 campaign.”
Another group of voters Paul has targeted are the homeschoolers, a crucial voting bloc.
Dustin and Derricca Krutsinger of Coralville, Iowa said they will support and caucus for Paul because of his support for education freedom.
“We support Dr. Ron Paul for many reasons but the main reason is education freedom. While our children are very young, we have choices in educational pathways,” they said. “As they get older, our government places more and more restrictions on our options, and so we trust Ron Paul to limit government and expand freedom in our private lives, including the freedom to choose how to best educate our children.”
To organize these Iowans, Paul is also using new media, such as a system in which out of state donors can buy and send Paul brochures to early voting states. And in the week leading up to the caucus, Paul not only has many volunteers pouring into Iowa from outside of Iowa but his organization on the ground has organized a 5-day, 52-stop caucus training tour to prepare people for and about the caucus.
Presumably, these sessions will help Independents and Democrats who are willing to their party registration to vote for Paul and are unfamiliar with out the Republican caucus works.
A leading figure in a rival campaign conceded to HUMAN EVENTS that Paul’s organization on the ground has been “relentless” and “dogged” in collecting voter info and identifying those who will caucus for Paul. He said that Paul’s campaign offices are buzzing and other campaigns have had to play “catch up” with an organization that has “run circles” around others that have had to put together organizations “on the fly.”
In fact, the Public Policy survey revealed that Iowans think Paul has run the best campaign. In another survey last month, Paul led the field when Iowans were asked by which campaign they were contacted the most.
Paul is an anti-establishment candidate and if he were to win the Iowa caucus, it may be because of voters who are not Republican. But, make no mistake about it, Paul will have also won it the traditional, old-school way.