This low percentage might give Romney a boost with what will be interpreted by the media as a Romney victory, having spent so little time, money and effort in Iowa compared to other candidates. The Gingriches, Santorums, Cains, Bachmanns, Perrys, etc. will want to nudge ahead of Romney but that desire will only serve to keep Paul's victory margin low.
Johnson and maybe Huntsman and Roemer might decide to tell their supporters to go with Paul so as to make sure Romney does not win and to discourage others from hanging in the race after finishing behind Romney.
Currently Paul's campaign is focusing on likely Republican voters and that may be all he needs to win in such a crowded field; however, after the field clears for New Hampshire, the standard strategy alone will not work. Yes, Paul's campaign (both official and grassroots) must continue to seek out loyal Republican support. Nevertheless, with Romney having a good showing in Iowa, and Cain, Bachman, Perry, and possibly Gingrich or Santorum no longer in the race, he will dominate New Hampshire and head to South Carolina with only 2 challengers, Paul and Santorum or Gingrich. That will most likely be a very tight primary, with less than a thousand votes separating these 3.
If Paul finishes a distant third (I predict a close second), the campaign has to wake up and make the quick shift to an all out coalition strategy or else all is lost. Waiting until after Super Tuesday keeps him in second or third at best the remainder of the campaign, and coming to convention in second or third virtually ruins his influence on the general election.
The sooner the shift to a coalition strategy begins the better. With all due respect to the important work that Robin Koerner and the Blue Republican movement are doing, their efforts are not aimed at building a coalition government but at converting independents and Democrats or at least convincing them that Paul is mostly on their side and that despite the obvious disagreement over economic policies, a Ron Paul presidency will serve their interests best. In other words, get them in with common ground issues and then put economic libertarian policy in place, and in 4 years, these disaffected Democrats will become libertarian themselves, having seen at last the glories of the Austrian economy at work.
Even if we assume the Austrian miracle will take place if we liberals would just stay still long enough, Ron Paul's campaign has got to realize that at best he comes in a close second at the convention and the 1st and 3rd place candidates will team up to keep him out of any real power. Maybe it will take SC or Super Tuesday for them to realize this, but they will realize it eventually.
I can understand the hopefulness. If Kucinich won Iowa and then finished 2nd in New Hampshire and SC in 2008, I would have been dizzy, no, drunk with optimism that America had finally seen the light and that all we need to do is to keep getting the unadulterated progressive message out their. And I would have been hugely wrong! On the other hand, had Kucinich tried deliberately to form a real coalition with Ron Paul in the 2004 campaign, we might have been looking at a very different political landscape today.
If Romney gets elected, there may be an opportunity for libertarians to come and join a progressive campaign in the 2016 Democratic primary. I would rather not wait another 4 years and I am sure libertarians would prefer to have the lead candidate now than the VP candidate 4 years from now. If you, my libertarian reader, think I am hard-headed with you, wait till I am screaming mad at my progressive comrades because they do not open the gates to you.
So indulge me once more. Imagine that this amateur has it right: Ron Paul never gets nominated or elected without a real and obvious coalition with progressives. I think you would want to make that shift asap. If the shift occurs before Iowa, you would increase his margin of victory and give him more momentum going into NH and SC. A close second in NH will be a devastating, if not mortal blow to Romney. A win in Iowa and a close second in NH, thanks in part to progressive infiltration, will embolden progressives to come out in greater numbers in SC and Super Tuesday.
If Santorum stays in the race through Super Tuesday, the establishment will go into panic mode and pressure will mount in the form of a VP promise for him to pull out . Tea party elements will be ticked off because they will not be privy to the Santorum deal. Ron Paul will get a number of anti-Romney voters in a two man race, enough to keep the race close and maybe enough to secure a plurality of votes if not delegates. A two way race is still winnable within a coalition campaign, but all Ron Paul supporters should pray for a 3-way race all the way to Tampa Bay.
The aim should be: get the nomination by bringing out every voter possible. I want one person to show me how Ron Paul gets 10 million votes without at least 2 million progressives. He got less than 2 million in 2008. Let's say he triples that number and adds 2 million moderate or libertarian independents and Democrats. That means he gets 8 million. That barely gets him in range of a plurality of votes in a 3 way race and no where near enough in a 2 way. There will be at least 24 million voters in next year's GOP primaries and caucuses which means at least 8 million votes are needed to secure a plurality of votes (which would not, of course, guarantee a plurality of delegates). Getting 12 million will be even more difficult. Without a minimum of 2 million progressives, Ron Paul's libertarian cause is delayed another 4 years. I invite anyone who knows the numbers better than I to educate me and show me where I am wrong.
Here is my very practical question: why not have a phone bank to reach Democrats in Iowa? I know there are a number of people who will say his candidacy is fraudulent but most of those folks are never going to vote for him anyway. Even if Ron Paul manages to get the nomination without progressives, Romney will go third party. In that case, if Paul has not done the necessary coalition building, Obama will walk away with the election.
I am sure Ron Paul would like to go totally libertarian and be elected and govern that way. Who does not long for unconditional victory? It is an impulse common even among the most virtuous. But what if that impulse precludes victory? Ron Paul is principled but realistic as evidenced by his transition plan. He has the personality to build coalitions. This skill must be accepted and encouraged by his loyalists. If there is a weakness in Ron Paul, it is that he would like nothing better than let someone else take the baton. Unfortunately, neither his son nor Gary Johnson are ready to do this.
Ron Paul is in the race; let's make him win. Let's not allow him to squeeze out a close victory in Iowa only to see Romney get all the credit for a surprisingly good showing in Iowa followed by an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire. By now it should be obvious how the MSM will spin any Ron Paul victory. Iowa must be a knock out, not a split decision. Paul needs to win Iowa by more than 10 percentage points and finish second in New Hampshire by less than 5 percentage points. That will put him into strong contention to win SC, and if both Gingrich and Santorum ( or any other walking dead) remain in the race for SC, Ron Paul wins. If he wins Iowa and finishes second in New Hampshire, the establishment will put major pressure on all the anti-Romney candidates to get out of the race. If Ron Paul pulls off victory in SC, there will be no more than 3 candidates the rest of the race. If Paul wins more than half of the Super Tuesday states, Romney and Paul will be all that remains.
In short, the GOP establishment will make it nearly impossible for Ron Paul to take first place. They will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo. Look for slanderous lies everywhere if Ron Paul threatens to go to Tampa Bay with a plurality of votes. This would be an historic blow to a major party, dwarfing the Republican southern strategy that put Nixon and Reagan in the White House. The only way that Ron Paul pulls off such a radical coup is through a coalition strategy.
Please do not get me wrong, the current committed but friendly libertarian strategy has much to be said for it. It can by itself get Ron Paul second place in the GOP primaries. I do not say abandon this strategy; I just say supplement it. I am also not claiming that the coalition strategy gets Ron Paul the nomination. The combination of coalition with progressives and committed but friendly strategies does not get him nominated either. We would need at least 6 million progressives to pull that off and that is not doable at this late date. What is doable is going to the convention with a plurality of votes and delegates. The higher the plurality the better. In a two way race this becomes much more difficult because a majority of delegates is most likely needed, depending on how well drop-outs do in the early states.
If, in a 3 way race we have a plurality of votes going into the convention, then 2nd and 3rd place will be given the nomination. This should result in a peaceful walk out of righteously outraged Ron Paul supporters. This becomes much more effective if that plurality breaks the 40% threshold. If this happens Ron Paul can become the most successful third party candidate in our nation's history. If he announces a coalition cabinet with a progressive running mate, American politics is changed for ever. Both parties will be shaken to the core. We will have for real a second American Revolution underway. This story will be told only if the new coalition strategy is put in place no later than SC. If it is not put in place, tell your grandchildren to look for Ron Paul in the footnotes of their history books (assuming we still have them).
Addendum: If we have a 3 way race in general election the outcome might look like this: