Outside The Blocs

In the most recent reporting results for Republican presidential candidates, Ron Paul delivered a surprising five million, causing something of a stir among his supporters and for those watching horse race at a time when fundraising is arguably still a better metric than polling data.

But who are these people and where do they come from?  Andrew Sullivan takes an interesting peek.


This is Patrick Ruffini’s map of where Ron Paul is getting his money. The strength in the Mountain West is impressive, if unsurprising. The hostility of the South to his message of individual liberty is also no big whup. Stuart Benjamin notices how evenly spread Paul’s money-base is compared with many others:

This observation is particularly timely given it comes just as a friend of mine and I have been contemplating exactly where his support is coming from.  There can be no mistaking, Ron Paul supporters are enthusiastic, but previous fundraising data, and current polling data still holds that he’s not gaining much traction especially where he needs to to transform into a higher tiered candidate.

One thing that the map makes clear, though, is that regardless of the strength of his followers numbers, their reach is considerably broad.  This is to be expected however.

Outside of traditional libertarians, the strongest Ron Paul pickups would likely be those disaffected with their party.  Particularly traditionally conservative Republicans dissatisfied with the state of the Republican party provide ripe grounds for reaping support.

But I think the interesting point to make here is that Ron Paul is not really a Republican, but a Libertarian.  Okay, that isn’t news, but the implications this non-news has on political demographics is worth a look.

Take a look at any political map.  You will find that the two big political leanings (the standby republican or democrat… in lower case) tend to concentrate.  This occurs by region, by state, by county, even by zoning.  For instance, typically urban areas tend to vote democrat/liberal, while the more rural you get the more conservative/republican the voters are.

But this occurs by percentages.  For simplification, we now refer to states as red or blue, and occasionally someone will add the modifiers “deep” or “light”, but at the end of the day, it’s typically drawn up as day or night, black and white, red or blue simple.  What must be understood is that these determinations are based off of percentages, and while the majority is thusly represented, the minority tends to be significantly left undetailed.

Naturally, a bulk of the non majority (or plurality) will be the opposition party/political leaning but this doesn’t account for everyone.  Again, look at a decent electoral map, and you will find that you will have a majority, a minority, and a couple of single digit percentage points floating out there for someone you’ve never heard of before (or, and yes I’m still a little bitter, Ralph Nader).

It is here that you will find a considerably large chunk of Ron Paul’s support.  These are the people that simply don’t fit into the larger electoral calculations.

Again, as I say, this always happens, but what is particularly interesting is that unlike in the past, these small percentages are unusually energized and mobile.  The logical reasoning for this is because a traditionally Libertarian candidate has entered the contest as a Republican which gets him credibility in the two party system, and buys him a whole lot of free tv time on the chat circuit and in televised debates.

But this comes as a double edged sword.  On one hand, this is particularly advantageous to Paul as this gives him the groundwork for a fifty state strategy.  We (and I mean this personally with our recent history being taken into account) have seen that Ron Paul supporters are enthusiastic, organized, and capable, so with little resources, it is possible for Ron Paul to mount a late in the game strong fifty state go of it.

But here comes the negative.  In order for Ron Paul to have a shot first at the nomination and second at the general election should he manage to win the nomination, this grassroots movement has to be extremely successful.  What wins elections is not broad support, but winning over powerful epicenters.

For instance, when you look at California and New York, three cities make them blue states; San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.  Take away these epicenters of electoral heft, and what you have are two states with considerable electoral votes all of a sudden turning red.

The same kind of political math is applicable to Ron Paul, and in this case to his great disadvantage.  Libertarianism exists outside the major political blocs, and in modern day politics is a fringe portion of the political spectrum without significant electoral strongholds to give it the leverage it needs to be a major player.  In order for Ron Paul to have even a slight chance to make a reasonable challenge to the Oval Office, those strongholds are going to have to be built.

(note: This is an argument I make in good faith, doing what I have once been accused of not doing before on this site and that is covering Ron Paul like any other presidential candidate.  In the recent past, we have been effectively punished for continuing to try and post about Ron Paul as we would any other subject, so I’m going to say this once.  I am going to monitor the comment thread closely on this post.  Arguments in good faith will be welcomed; however, comments that even come close to spam will be deleted as will personal attacks.

If you are unsure if your comment will be welcomed or not, my suggestion is to read this first.)

4 Responses to “Outside The Blocs”

  1. Okay, hint number two, read all the way to the bottom of the post where it says no spamming. Already deleted one post.

  2. Good post. This map has been spreading like wildfire today in the blogosphere, though this is my first comment on it (it was already too well-covered for me to talk about it at PE).

    Anyways, I think I can provide some useful analysis on this. First, it is important to note that small “l” libertarians have been a big chunk of the Republican coalition for decades; people tend to forget that the LP represents only a tiny fraction of libertarians.

    Second, the key thing to notice with this map is that the states that are the deepest red (with the very odd exceptions of Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland) are the states that are the most (small “l”) libertarian traditionally. But- there is something even more important than that. These states have been, by and large, solid “red” states for years. Why? Because the Republican Party, for the last 50 years, has been understood as a coalition of three to four distinct interest groups: fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives, libertarian conservatives (including the “Old Right” paleocons), and (since the late 70’s) neo-conservatives.

    As long as libertarians and paleocons thought they had a voice in the Republican Party, they were willing to put up with the neo-cons and theo-cons. But, the Bush Administration has effectively abandoned this wing of the Republican Party (as well as the fiscal conservatives, though many of them are now just converted neo-cons). The fact that no candidate other than Ron Paul (and, to a much, much lesser extent maybe, McCain) can have a claim to any small “l” libertarian credentials makes him their only hope to retain a seat at the GOP table.

    If Ron Paul loses (which he almost certainly will), the map above suggests that we could be seeing the beginning of the end for libertarian involvement in the traditional Republican coalition- in essence, the GOP will lose a massive chunk of its Western power base (I know this is a leap in logic, but it’s based in the hostility Ron Paul and libertarians more generally have recently received from the party establishment- trust me, it’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths). If the theo-cons run a third party candidate, you will see the traditional Republican coalition split in potentially three ways.

    If the (small “l”) libertarians and a good chunk of theo-cons break from the Republican Party, the GOP will find itself in a precarious long-term position, and there will be a threat that the long-standing GOP coalition will break up permanently. The GOP response to that threat would then determine whether this election is most analogous to the 1852 Whigs, the 1964 Goldwater movement, or the 1976 Reagan movement . But if it’s the former (admittedly unlikely), it would be the most historically significant development in American politics in 150 years.

  3. …Something else that just occured to me (and which some quick research confirmed). The Larry Craig scandal might also stir up the libertarian Republicans against the establishment- not because of Larry Craig, but because of the reaction to the scandal by the establishment.

    Key to this is Idaho’s general reputation as being as libertarian a state as they come. The calls for Craig’s resignation, the condemnations of him, Romney’s refutation of Craig’s support, and the moral indignation thrown his way- all of this is extremely un-libertarian, and smacks of the worst sort of save-yourself political backstabbing imaginable. What is interesting is that, despite all of these things, including national poll data showing an overwhelming majority favoring Craig’s resignation, the Idaho state GOP has remained steadfast in its support of Craig. That isn’t to say the state population as a whole isn’t in favor of his resigning; only that the state’s establishment continues to support him. This suggests, perhaps, a state GOP establishment that is far different ideologically than the national GOP establishment, though there are of course other possible explanations.

    I don’t know how useful Idaho can be at reflecting even general libertarian trends, but I’d be very curious to find out how other Western state GOP’s (not including Texas, of course) are responding to the Craig scandal and its subsequent fallout.

  4. lester says:

    there are weird little bits of information about this out there. for instance, areas that get alot of corn subsidies are less likely to give to his campaign as he comes out strongly against those at every turn.

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