Ron Paul finished a third place in the Iowa Caucuses. Early in the evening, there was a general sense of optimism as Paul took the lead in the beginning of the count. With 96% of the votes in, it appears Rick Santorum might win by a slim margin over Mitt Romney. Michelle Bachmann–who came in first in the Iowa straw poll– finished in last place (technically ahead of Hunstman, who did not run a campaign in Iowa). Bachmann’s disastrous finish may signal the end of her run. Rick Perry, who ended in fifth, will now return to Texas to see if there is a future for his campaign. Sunday’s debate may be a lot smaller.
Santorum’s victory will most likely propel him to the center stage in this Sunday’s debate in New Hampshire. Gingrich, who ended in fourth place, has begun his NH tour by condemning Paul’s foreign policy; a sign that Paul is still alive and well in this campaign.
Paul’s third place finish is not precisely what many expected, since Paul was counted to be among the top two. Despite a third place finish, Paul has the money and organization to continue strong in future states (Ron Paul’s speech). Beyond that, he may have won important delegates for the Republican convention.
Paul holds a second place in NH behind Romney who has taken a considerable lead. He will have to continue to harp his foreign policy message in the Live-Free-or-Die state of a strong national defense, no nation-building, no over-reaction to Iran, and a sober view of Middle East politics, and emphasize and contrast his economic policy from other candidates.
The GOP candidates share great similarity on a number of issues, but the two central issues at stake are the War and Economy. Ron Paul is actually fighting for the Taft/non-interventionist paleo-conservative tradition of war. And on the economy, Paul is arguing that only the Austrian school is a reliable theory to combat the deficit spending in Washington and the crony capitalism embraced by the bailout advocates within the GOP. Over the years, Paul has led the charge on auditing the Fed; a noble charge that has rallied a vast number of people. He has also proposed a bold plan to cut one trillion dollars in the first year.
Where do we go from here?
Paul’s third place finish is a remarkable achievement. In 2008, Paul finished a distant fourth, and now he is among the top three contenders. This is a strong finish (over 25,000 votes). Paul is still in the race and has the money to compete in NH and SC. Gingrich has already begun to attack Paul. Santorum–who will not compete in Virginia– will receive closer scrutiny, and Romney will be attacked repeatedly by Gingrich and others. The Keynesians are still feeling the wound caused by Paul’s Austrian’s spear.