OK, all you Ron Paul fans out there -- this article's for you.
Since the 2012 Republican nomination fight has, so far, been marked by its "anything could happen" nature, and since Ron Paul is still very much in the race in places like Iowa, let's explore how he could actually win the Republican nomination. This scenario is unthinkable for many inside-the-Beltway types and mainstream media types alike, but since it is the height of speculation season, a winning Paul scenario is worth considering. Two of them, in fact.
Path to a Paul victory (number one)
Ron Paul spends a lot of money in Iowa attacking Newt Gingrich. But his hidden weapon in the caucuses turns out to be how committed his mostly-young supporters are. Young people flock out in the freezing weather to the caucuses, and their participation swamps the other demographics who show up. Because the young are so committed, in other words, they turn out in outsized proportions to all other groups.
Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucus. Newt places second, Mitt Romney a distant third.
Romney turns this around by winning New Hampshire. Ron Paul places second, with Newt a close third.
In the gap between New Hampshire and South Carolina, Gingrich is interviewed on television. He is caught on a live microphone chatting with the interviewer before the interview begins, and this is leaked to the world. After the interviewer makes a comment about how well Gingrich is doing, Newt says: "Yeah, I only did this fundamentally as a money-making scheme. I never thought the voters would be stupid enough to actually vote for me! Look at Florida -- I'm leading the polls even though I'm going to cut all the entitlements Grandma gets. Can you believe it?"
Newt was leading the polling in South Carolina before this gaffe, but when the results are in after primary day, Ron Paul has won the state, with Romney a close second. In third place is Rick Perry, to Newt's enormous embarrassment. By the time Florida voting rolls around, it is a two-man race between Romney and Paul.
Voters are reluctant to embrace Paul fully, but are also just as reluctant as they've ever been to get behind Romney. Super Tuesday is not a blowout, but Paul begins edging Romney's delegate count out slowly. After a bruising primary season, Paul wins his magic number of delegates in Idaho, and hence the Republican nomination for president.
In an unprecedented and historic move, he names his son Rand Paul as his running mate.
Path to a Paul victory (number two)
This scenario begins the same. Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucus. Newt places second, Mitt Romney a distant third. Romney wins New Hampshire. Ron Paul places second, with Newt a close third.
South Carolina, however, is Newt country. He scores a huge win here, with Romney far back in second and Michele Bachmann a surprising third. The race between Romney and Gingrich heats up.
Mitt and Newt wage an epic battle on Florida's airwaves. Paul contributes a few potshots at both of them. Romney wins, but just barely, when the votes are counted. Paul wins a distant third.
This pattern continues through Super Tuesday, which is inconclusive. Stacking up Romney wins against Gingrich wins becomes an obsession in the media. But Ron Paul continues to win small states with caucus systems, again because of the sheer energy of his young supporters.
The primary season, like the Democrats' in 2008, goes until the very end. Unfortunately, by the end, Paul has managed to collect so many delegates that neither Mitt or Newt has enough to put them over the top and reach the magic number which assures their nomination.
This leads to the first open, or "brokered" convention in modern times. Just before the convention convenes, Ron Paul gives a major speech in which he declares that he will not accept Vice President or any cabinet office in exchange for his support -- from either Mitt or Newt. This is received with thunderous applause by his supporters.
Inside the convention, the delegates begin voting. Over and over, they fail to reach a majority. Finally, the Ron Paul people begin to hold out the offer of the vice presidency as a possible lure for Romney or Gingrich. The Gingrich supporters reject this, but Romney is more open to the idea. In a shock to the entire political establishment, Romney throws his support to Paul and accepts the veep slot on the ticket.
Of course, I am not laying odds for either of these scenarios to happen. Contrary to the belief of the Ron Paul supporters, the media would absolutely love for either of these to take place -- or, indeed, any scenario which put Paul at the top of the ticket. Faced with the prospect of generating interest in a Romney/Obama matchup, a Paul/Obama matchup is much more interesting to report on.
To put it another way: one month out, I have no idea what will happen in Iowa. Neither does anyone else, really. But I certainly can see the possibility of a big Ron Paul surge, especially if he places either first or second in Iowa. That alone would shake the race up considerably. With the race already in a pretty shaky place right now, what this means is that anything could happen at that point. Even Ron Paul winning the Republican presidential nomination.
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