The first [problem] is a cranky congressman from Texas named Ron Paul who won't disown a third-party spoiler candidacy. The second problem is the Ron Paul vote, which as we'll see has little to do with Ron Paul.Exactly.
The Ron Paul vote is a separate matter. In June, polling put the familiar Mr. Paul at about 5.5% for the Iowa caucus and 8% nationally. That would be his normal ceiling. Suddenly, Ron Paul is the Iowa front-runner at over 22.5% and is up to 12% nationally. Why?
Is this surge a vote for the congressman named Ron Paul? Impossible. It's in fact the Republican Party protest vote. Since summer, this block of votes has jumped from one candidate to another, desperate for an anti-Obama champion whose anti-Washington intensity matches its own….
The Paul candidacy is of course doomed. But the Paul vote won't die. This vote has been building in the depths of the American political ocean since the spending spree of the second Bush term. These people see the upward spending trend in annual outlays and accumulated commitments not as a "problem," as the Beltway prefers, but as a threat to their well-being.
Here’s the point that I believe Henninger misses. “These people” who are fuelling the Paul boomlet, and before that the Bachman/Perry/Cain/Gingrich boomlets, are not just the Republican protest vote. Since Obama has no Democrat rivals, there’s no real opportunity for a Democrat protest vote. The only way for Republicans and the unaffiliated middle-of-the-roader who voted for Obama in 2008 to show their opposition to Washington policies is the Republican primary. And who are they? They are the broad middle class who are unemployed or have family members, neighbors and friends who are losing their homes, their jobs and their hope for a better future while Washington lives it up on their dime.
They read stories on the Internet - stories their newspapers won’t print - about billions lost on “green energy” boondoggles while they pay $40 to $50 dollars for a tank of gas. They are losing their houses to foreclosure after Obama promised to fix that problem. They see trillion dollar deficits while their living standards erode and are demanding to know where the money’s going.
They are that virtual mob with pitchforks that are desperate to anoint someone as their leader who will help them storm the castle and evict the ogre holed up there. Mitt Romney doesn’t look like the kind of guy who is comfortable handling a pitchfork, but if he’s the last man standing after all the others fail, he’ll be appointed to that role.
In 2008 the people went to the polls before the full impact of the financial melt-down had sunk in. They voted for Mr. HopeN’Change because they thought Obama didn’t really mean it when he promised to fundamentally change America. They though that they were electing a President who would fix the problems and set the country back on its accustomed course. The Three Years of Obama taught them just how wrong they were. HopeN'Change is now replaced by Change it Back. Obama is now viewed with fear and loathing. Those who did not like him now despise him and those who were on the fence are joining the opposition. Many see Obama as the ogre in the castle who has taken America hostage. The middle class is in danger of losing its grip on their part of the American Dream, and this time the mob with pitchforks is for real. That is the real meaning of the Paul vote.
UPDATE: Thanks Glenn, Ace, and others.