Ron Paul Was Super Tuesday's Big Winner (Among Liberals)

There's a bit of a debate over whether Mitt Romney lost by winning six states on Super Tuesday, but there's no disputing that Ron Paul had a bad night by winning zero.

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There's a bit of a debate over whether Mitt Romney lost by winning six states on Super Tuesday, but there's no disputing that Ron Paul had a bad night by winning zero. Paul put a lot of effort into winning the three caucus states -- Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska -- and failed in each. Why did Paul do so poorly? Maybe he's reaching for the wrong voters.

Paul was the only Republican primary candidate to have a physical campaign office in Idaho, ABC News' Jason M. Volack reports. He was the only one to visit Alaska. His North Dakota campaign headquarters had been open for four months. Idaho is "is as famous for its libertarian streak as for its potatoes," Politico's James Hohmann writes. (It's also famous for his black-helicopter-fearing militias.) But maybe Paul should give up on those government-skeptical westerners, since it looks like his real base has become liberals. In Virginia, only Paul and Romney were on the ballot in the state that has an open primary, allowing voters of all parties to vote. Paul won 41 percent of the vote to Romney's 59 percent. But 70 percent of Republicans voted for Romney, CBS News' Stanley Feldman reports. Independents counted for half of Paul's vote; 7 percent of his total came from Democrats. In Vermont, Romney beat Paul 40 percent to 26 percent. But Feldman notes that Paul got a much larger portion of the Democratic and Independent vote -- 42 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

If you look at exit polls from some of the other nine Super Tuesday states, it's clear Paul's supporters didn't back him for his conservative positions:

  • In Ohio, Paul came in fourth with 9 percent of the vote. Exit polls show Paul did best among those who strongly oppose the Tea Party -- a movement Paul has been called the "grandfather" of -- getting 13 percent of those people's votes. He got 7 percent of those supporting the movement.
  • Paul won 12 percent of moderate or liberal voters in Ohio, but just 7 percent of conservative voters. He got 18 percent of independents, 10 percent of Democrats, and 6 percent of Republicans.
  • The guy who wants to drastically cut federal spending -- including for things like the C.D.C. -- did better among those calling themselves moderate or liberal on taxes and spending in Ohio. He got 12 percent of these big government types, compared to somewhat conservatives (8 percent) and very conservatives (7 percent). 
  • In Oklahoma, where Paul got 9.6 percent of the vote, he did better among liberals and moderates, too, getting 12 percent of their vote and just 9 percent of conservatives.
  • In Georgia, where Paul got 6.5 percent of the vote, he won 18 percent of those opposing the Tea Party, and just 5 percent of those supporting it.
  • And perhaps most troubling for his strategy of getting lots of delegates to have a say at the convention, he won just 3 percent of Georgians saying they will "definitely" vote for the GOP nominee in November -- which was 81 percent of the electorate.

Exit pollsters didn't even give voters the chance to say foreign policy was one an important issues. Instead, they were asked to pick among these four: abortion, budget deficit, economy, illegal immigration. But with all these liberal voters, and those unconcerned about government spending, you have to wonder if Paul's base is shrinking to Jon Stewart voters -- liberals who like him for his anti-war positions. As Paul himself will say, those positions are far outside the Republican mainstream. How can Paul argue for influence over the Republican Party platform if it's not even clear his followers will vote Republican?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.