Manchester, NH—The career of Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), just peaked. The 76-year-old congressman never passed much legislation. He lived for this moment when he would bask in the glory of his maximum popularity. After performing surprising well in the Iowa caucuses, Paul has finished second in New Hampshire with 23 percent of the vote.
But it’s all downhill from here. The campaign will now head on to Southern states, where Republican voters are more hawkish and socially conservative than those in New Hampshire. The media will lose interest in Paul once Mitt Romney, who won both Iowa and New Hampshire, has the nomination presumptively wrapped up. Paul has said he won’t run for re-election to Congress this year, and he’s unlikely to run for president again in 2016. His maximum relevance was yesterday.
You’d never know it, though, from the demeanor of Paul and the majority of his supporters. At Paul’s election night celebration Tuesday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, he addressed a crowd that was younger, longer-haired and noticeably more boisterous than those drawn by his competitors at their recent campaign events. Where other candidates’ supporters have only cheers that reflect their candidate preference—“Mitt, Mitt, Mitt”—Paul’s have cheers for all his major platform planks. Whenever Paul hit the appropriate line in his speech, the crowd would break into a chant: “End the Fed!” “Bring them [our soldiers] home!” and “Ron Paul revolution, we support our Constitution!”
Paul proudly declared “a victory for the cause of liberty tonight,” and promised, “This effort will not go unnoticed.” But it probably will. In 2008 Paul performed surprisingly well in the primaries, but the Republican Party has hardly adopted his platform. Most of his opponents are as hawkish as George W. Bush. The only movement towards Paul’s position on one of his hobbyhorses is the mainstreaming of demonizing the Federal Reserve and fretting about the “soundness” of our money. But that’s only because there’s a Democrat in the White House and the Fed—which incidentally is still run by Bush appointee Ben Bernanke—taking action to boost the economy, could damage a Republican’s chances of winning the presidency. As soon as there is a Republican president, Republicans will rediscover the virtues of goosing the monetary supply when a recession hits.
The distinction among Paul supporters seems to often—though, of course, not always—break down along generational lines. Older Paul supporters, presumably lifelong Republicans and staunch fiscal conservatives, are typically willing to support Romney if he is the Republican nominee. In fact, many say Romney is their second choice among the Republicans.