“We knew going in it was a longshot,” says Dimitri Kesari, who coordinated state efforts for the 12-term (over three separate stints) Texas congressman’s second and final GOP primary campaign. “If victory was to happen, everything had to line up perfectly.”
That had to begin in Iowa, the first stop on the long slog to the Republican nomination. With over $1 million spent on TV, more than 100 candidate appearances, and more than 300 campaign-managed volunteers, Ron Paul’s people attacked the Hawkeye State, and the race in general, with a unique strategy. Rather than focus on winning the popular vote—the so-called beauty contest—the campaign took advantage of differing rules in the primaries and caucuses to maximize the number of delegates it could take to August’s Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa. Iowa, with its arcane, multi-stage caucus process, would be the ideal early laboratory for seeing whether Paulite enthusiasm could overrun GOP machine politics as usual.
And there was a longer-term strategy as well: “We were doing it for a movement,” says Kesari, a former organizer from National Right to Work. “Our first goal was building the army, and the second goal is to win.”
Paul came tantalizingly close in Iowa, finishing behind the nearly tied Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney by just 3,000 votes, or 2.5 percentage points. The margin was close enough to breed suspicions of vote-counting irregularities among Paul supporters, but large enough in strategic terms to have some staffers declare the race over before it started. “The campaign was lost on January 3,” one disappointed mid-level campaign operative told me.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Brian Doherty.