Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can Ron Paul Steamroll the Republican Field?

It was pick on Rick Perry night at the GOP Tea Party Express debate televised by CNN in Tampa, Florida. Even Sarah Palin, who wasn't even there, took a shot at him. But the real story may be Ron Paul, who has won these last two debates, at least on Facebook.

CandidateThu NoonTue NoonPickup
Ron Paul497,643505,5557,912
Rick Perry151,275157,0885,813
Mitt Romney1,102,0281,107,2115,183
Herman Cain172,534175,1952,661
Jon Huntsman16,27017,4451,175
Newt Gingrich146,512147,433921
Rick Santorum27,15827,679521
Michele Bachmann462,184462,23349
To measure how many new followers were attracted by the debate coverage, we counted Facebook followers for the candidates at noon on Thursday following the previous debate and again at noon Tuesday following his debate.

Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Herman Cain are fighting it out for the conservative pro-business mantel with some cheerleading from Newt Gingrich and heckling from Jon Huntsman. Michele Bachmann was hemorrhaging support in the last debate but seems to have stopped the bleeding, at least for now. Rick Santorum is going nowhere.

That leaves Ron Paul, who picked up nearly a third of the new support. He's got an alternative vision for the Republican Party, a place where conventional wisdom says most Republicans don't want to go. He has been largely left out of the various Tea Party events for the last 3 years, but in some sense he is the founder of the movement. The Tea Party vote may be his for the taking.

What if Ron Paul turns his second place Ames finish in August into a win at the Iowa Caucuses in January, finishes second or better in Live Free or Die New Hampshire, and wins the big Tea Party vote in South Carolina?

That would be a lot of momentum coming out of the first three contests. And even if Ron Paul fell short of winning the nomination, he could be in a position to dictate terms.

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