With almost a quarter of the delegates at stake being awarded on Super Tuesday, any candidate could have made a huge impact on the Republican nomination process with a big night. With Romney and Santorum expected to have big nights, pressure was relieved on Gingrich and Paul that if either of them exceeded expectations, they could be the story of the night. Other than Ron Paul, all three candidates needed to win states to remain relevant. Paul, on the other hand, needed to simply prove that he could win a large sum of votes in multiple states to show that his libertarian message is catching fire.
Certainly, the most pressure was on Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum last night. Romney was seen as the weakened frontrunner who needed to pick up delegates in almost every state and win the swing state, Ohio. Coming off his recent jump in the polls, Rick Santorum needed to win Southern conservative states like Tennessee and Oklahoma and then at least contend seriously in Ohio against Romney. For Gingrich, anything less than a win in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, would be seen as a massive failure.
No one expected Paul to win any states throughout the nomination process. In fact, most pundits have ignored him completely and expected him to be a footnote in each election. Yet, he has proven throughout the campaign season that his views are not as radical as previously described and are gaining popularity with the electorate. Everyone has heard the media say that Paul has dedicated followers but cannot gain any more followers than he already has. The votes, however, do not support that claim. In 2008, Paul rarely gained more than a few percent of the votes. Yesterday, Paul gained over 20 percent of the vote in North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. His most notable accomplishment was his 40 percent of the vote in a direct election between himself and Romney in Virginia where Gingrich and Santorum failed to make the ballot. Clearly, Paul can expand his base and win over voters.
Congressman Paul himself recognized that his campaign was building momentum before a crowd in Fargo, North Dakota, according to the Washington Times. Based on the history of votes that he has received, it is hard to deny that claim. While the other three candidates are doing exactly what the media expected them to do, Paul continually does what pundits claim to be impossible for him. Romney continues to be the frontrunner but has yet to convince conservatives that he is their man. Santorum has risen to prominence, but still struggles to gain money and cannot win swing states while Gingrich is in the race. Gingrich only won his previous home state and is now hearing calls to drop out. None of these candidates have broken out and won the enthusiasm of the people. Only Paul’s campaign has seen a visible rise in support and enthusiasm.
Because Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich all represent the traditional Republican establishment, none of them have much to lose if they do not become the GOP nominee. Their views will be espoused by the nominee even if they disappear from the political scene. Paul, however, sticks out like a sore thumb with his libertarian views and strict Constitutional adherence and seeks to gain support for his views in addition to his own campaign for the Presidency. With Paul gaining significant support from the electorate yesterday, his views are proving to gain traction amongst the electorate. Paul is likely to pass the torch to his son, Rand, to carry on the libertarian movement to the next generation, so he needs to gain momentum for his cause in order to give his son a chance to make the libertarian message mainstream. Based on yesterday’s votes, what was once called crazy and insignificant has proven to growing to significance and prominence. Ron Paul was the only Republican candidate that had a true victory on Super Tuesday.