With 99% of the caucus vote reported, Ron Paul came in third at 21% compared to 25% each for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. (At least, that’s how it’s being reported by most media; when you look at the actual numbers, that 25% each for Romney and Santorum is actually 24.5% each, and Paul’s 21% is really 21.4%. So he’s 3.1% behind them, not 4%. Funny, when I was in school we were taught that 24.5 percent is rounded to 24%; I guess times change.)
The big Iowa win of course belonged to Santorum, a religious conservative who curried the evangelical vote in Iowa and won with it much as Mike Huckabee did in 2008. Huckabee, of course, quickly lost ground in subsequent primaries. (Meanwhile, Santorum lost the vote of his nephew, who published an article explaining why he’s supporting Ron Paul.)
Ron Paul was in a tight race for first with Mitt Romney until only two days earlier. Of course, the difference in Paul and Santorum votes was less than 4,000 people, but still Paul’s last-minute drop needs analysis.
Here’s part of it. In 2008 at the national level the November Presidential vote broke down as follows for age:
Per census data: Citizens 18-24 were the only age group increasing in turnout from 2004. Citizens between the ages of 45 to 64 saw their voting rates slightly decrease. Voting rates for citizens aged 25 to 44 and 65 years or older were statistically unchanged between 2004 and 2008. 2008 was the second straight presidential election year where young citizens significantly increased their voting rates.
Obama did well among the 18-24 age voters, helping him win the general election. In Iowa, Paul polled first among 18-45 year olds. But looking at the voting distribution at the caucuses, only 31% of the voters were in the 18-45 age group. 68% were in the 45-older group. To the extent younger voters--who could easily vote for Paul over Obama in a general election but would never vote for Santorum over Obama--were under-represented in Iowa, Iowa downplays Paul’s strength, yet Paul still came in a close second after a tie for first. To put it another way: if the age distribution of the 2012 Iowa GOP vote was the same as the 2008 national vote, with nothing else changed, Paul would have come in first last night.
People are now asking whether Santorum has the organization, money, strength, etc. to win. These are the same questions asked of Mike Huckabee in 2008. He got 35% of the Iowa vote, yet he didn’t come close to winning. Neither will Santorum. This will become a two-man race: Romney and Paul. Fortunately, these are the two GOP candidates who do best against Obama. It’s turning, like 2010, into a choice between the GOP Establishment and the Tea Party.