Today’s Iowa caucus will solve little in the grand electoral scheme: Pundits predict that Hillary Clinton will finish third among Democrats, while Mike Huckabee is supposed to win the GOP race, and that none of that will matter much in the long run.
But we’re confident in predicting one concrete result: A disappointing finish for Internet phenomenon Ron Paul. We know, we know: Paul is already President of the Internet. He’s raised a ton of money online in the fourth quarter, likely more than any other Republican candidate. He kills in YouTube views, MySpace friends and Facebook supporters.
In the end, though, he’s likely to be another data point in one of the more confounding questions in Internet-age politics: Why doesn’t online support translate into real-world votes?
Recall that Howard Dean’s failed 2004 campaign, which had huge support on the Web, actually started faltering before his infamous “scream“: Dean made that speech after receiving disappointing results in Iowa.
And Iowa remains particularly hard for campaigns that don’t have strong real-world organisations. Rather than just showing up at a voting booth and pulling a lever, the caucuses are a face-to-face affair: Voters have to show up and then sit around and kibitz for hours. It’s one thing for Ron Paul’s motivated niche to harangue message boards and send Paypal donations. It’s another but do they want to show up at a church or community centre and talk to people?
The good news for Paul is that’s he polling well in independent-minded New Hampshire, so his supporters will be able to show improvement next week. But the end result will be the same: No one has figured out how to turn Web fame into ballot results, and Ron Paul isn’t the guy with the answer.
*Update: As expected, Ron Paul was crushed in Iowa
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