COMMENTARY | Buoyed by a second-place showing in a recent Iowa poll, Ron Paul is going all out to capture the Republican Iowa Caucus, as reported by Time. He's also trying to win all of the caucuses, according to The Ticket, opening up offices in several states holding a caucus. Is this a wise move?
According to The Ticket, "Four of the five states where Paul is setting up shop hold caucuses instead of primaries -- a voting system that tends to benefit Paul, arguably one of the best-organized candidates this cycle when it comes to mobilizing supporters."
The conventional wisdom is that caucuses benefit those with a better campaign organization because the system mandates a lot of in-person politicking, as opposed to the more impersonal primary, where television advertising saturating the airwaves can make a difference.
The best way to test the wisdom of this strategy is to look at the GOP 2008 nomination contest. Ten states held caucuses that year, while another 39 held primaries (with two states having an alternate means of selecting a nominee).
From each of these, we can look at how well Paul did in those states with a caucus, and compare them to his primary showings. The data comes from the 2008 CNN Election Center. It is better to look at the percentage of votes for Paul instead of his place in the election (a function of how many candidates were in the race) and the raw number of votes (a function of the size of the state).
For those 10 states that held a caucus for the Republican Party in 2008, Paul averaged 16.3 percent. From those states that held a primary, he only received an average of 6.66 percent. That's at least a difference almost of 10 percentage points, or almost 2.45 times better for Paul in caucuses instead of primaries. Using a difference of means test, it is a significant difference.
Of course, having an army of volunteers isn't enough. They have to be smart, and not just present and motivated. That's what Paul's people found out in 2008 in Iowa, according to Time. "Four years ago, Paul's fan base was brimming with fervor but sloppily organized; this time, his campaign is not just motivated, but meticulously organized."If Paul wins the Iowa Caucus and prevails in some early caucuses, that's still no guarantee of overall success in the nomination contest, as few of the ten states has many votes. But just ask someone who won a number of caucuses to build enough momentum to capture his party's nomination is a bit of an upset over a heavily favored candidate. That upstart was Barack Obama.