On to New Hampshire

So what now for Ron Paul supporters?  Herewith, some thoughts on the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Surely the most heartening thing is that the 10% Paul pulled down was rather higher than his 7.2% polling average in Iowa right before the caucuses.  This bears out the theory that conventional opinion polling undersamples Paul's support because 1) the polling relies on landline telephones and 2) it focuses too much on people who've voted in previous Republican primaries, which is not where Paul is going to draw his biggest support. 

Even better: Paul spanked Generalissimo Giuliani.  True, Giuliani wrote off Iowa early on, but Paul got 2.5 votes for every one that  Rudy got.  As Josh Marshall writes at TPM, "The frontrunner of recent months is lost down in Florida shakily
repeating '9/11' under his breath like a hobo who needs a stiff drink."

The besting of Giuliani even prompted Fox's obnoxious Shepard Smith to remark that his bosses might want to reconsider their decision to exclude Paul from a New Hampshire debate this weekend. 

Yes, a lot of Paul supporters were counting on a third-place finish.  The fact that third went to the cadaverous Fred Thompson surprised just about everyone.  But I noticed in the "crawl" on MSNBC last night that he spent the third-highest amount of money on TV spots in Iowa.  (Romney and Huckabee were one and two.)  Could Paul have bought a better showing by buying more TV time?  Hard to say, but one hopes his staff are discussing that today.

Other bright spots:  Paul won a precinct in Ames dominated by students at Iowa State.  He also won Jefferson County , home to the town of Fairfield and the North American wing of the Transcendental Meditation movement, highlighted yesterday on A1 of the Wall Street Journal
(On the other hand, given that Paul stands alone among the candidates
in being judged by the people who support him, maybe that's not such a
great thing.  It's irksome to say the least that other candidates
aren't judged by the support they get from investment bankers and
defense contractors.)

So where to go from here with New Hampshire looming next Tuesday?  Well, picking apart the entrance polling in Iowa, one thing stands out:  Paul won a plurality of independents, bettering Napoleon McCain by six percentage points.  And independent voters are an even stronger force in New Hampshire.  Conventional wisdom has it that New Hampshire's independents make McCain the presumptive frontrunner among the Republicans there.  But how many of those independents will be energized by McCain's remark yesterday that he'd be pleased if if U.S. troops stayed in Iraq for another 100 years?

Here's the question Paul's staff needs to answer by noon today:  Do we hammer away at McCain about this for the next several days?  The answer is not obvious.  Yes, it could weaken McCain's support.  But would that draw people to Paul… or drive them to grab a Democratic ballot and vote for Barack Obama?