In 2008, Ron Paul ran for the Republican nomination for President. Despite the seeming popularity of his libertarian ideals, "dovish" foreign policy, and a grassroots movement he received 10% in the Iowa caucus finishing just behind eventual nominee John McCain and ahead of America's mayor Rudy Giuliani. Undaunted by his failure to woo over Republican primary voters, Paul ran again in 2012. Promises came fast and furious that this was the year that libertarianism was really popular and that his stance on drone strikes would be nice opposition to Barack Obama and Paul rebounded all the way up to 21% in Iowa. He placed third behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The New York Times yet again promised us that this is the year that libertarianism was popular and yet again we have a Paul running for President. This time it's his son, Rand.
I've written at length about Rand's libertarian streak or lack thereof and his contradictory stance on drone strikes so I won't rehash them here. Does Rand stand a chance in Iowa? He has pretty strong favorability numbers among Iowa Republicans with a net favorability of +25 comparing favorably to the second tier of candidates (pretty much everyone but Scott Walker) which in includes Ben Carson (+29), Ted Cruz (+30), Mike Huckabee (+34), Rick Perry (+29), and Marco Rubio (+33). Despite his strong favorability, he does not seem to make much headway when brought up against the other candidates.
When Iowa Republicans were asked who their first choice would be among the candidates, Paul was at 10%. He is tied with Mike Huckabee and about the same as Jeb Bush (12%) and Marco Rubio (13%). Even when pressed to name their second choice, Paul got 9%. That puts him ahead of Rick Perry, Ben Carson, and Chris Christie. Unfortunately for him, it's difficult to see how Paul forms a coalition to be able to secure the primary.
Paul derives much of his support from Iowa Republicans who are most concerned with having the most conservative Republican be the nominee. 50% of his supporters believe this to be the case. Walker, Perry, and Cruz supporters are the only ones with higher percentages among their supporters. Paul is seen as not as conservative as Walker, Perry, or Cruz. Paul is also seen as not having the best shot at winning the general election. Those who believe it is most important to find a candidate who has the best chance of beating a Democrat lean towards other candidates. Paul is polling worse than every other candidate beside Cruz among this important portion of the Iowa caucus voters.
Among the TEA Partiers in Iowa, Paul does not even poll that well. He finished fourth behind Cruz, Perry, and Carson and just ahead of Huckabee and Walker. He doesn't do that well outside of the TEA Party either garnering support from less percentage of the non-TEA Partiers as every candidate except Perry and Cruz. If he tries to gain support from those outside of the TEA Party he will slip with them and throw more votes to Carson or Cruz (both are high percentage 2nd choices for Paul supporters). That is his biggest shot to win the primary is to try to show himself as the moderate who has the best chance of being elected in the general election against the Clinton machine. He is the second choice for a plurality of the dwindling Chris Christie team and does fairly well among Jeb Bush supporters. Unfortunately for Paul, Huckabee is also a popular 2nd choice for Jeb Bush.
The more likely scenario is that Paul tries to reach out to the religious right to form his coalition. He is a popular 2nd choice option among Huckabee and Carson supporters. To do so, Paul will need to show that he is the better choice not just against Huckabee but against Walker (best of luck there, sit). Luckily enough for Rand is that if he can convince voters that he is the better choice between himself and Huckabee is that he can try to siphon off support from Carson. The worst part for Rand is that Ted Cruz is already trying this strategy. Cruz is also the second choice among a number of Rand supporters. This could get ugly. Or it could just get really interesting.