Will Ron Paul be Mitt Romney’s last rival standing? We ask that question because if you sort through the Nevada caucus results, look at this week’s GOP events, add in a few financial disclosure forms, and shake, you can produce a scenario where Representative Paul outlasts Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. That would make the Texas libertarian the only non-Romney to run all the way to the Tampa Republican convention in August.
Yes, we know Paul actually placed third in Nevada’s Saturday vote. He’d hoped to do better, placement-wise. He ended up with 19 percent of the vote. Ex-Speaker Gingrich got 21 percent. Mr. Romney reached the 50 percent threshold.
But look at it this way: That 18 percent is four percentage points higher than Paul’s 2008 Nevada vote. It’s also higher than prevote polls had predicted: A Las Vegas Review-Journal survey in late January had him at only 9.2 percent of the vote, for example.
Plus, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out Monday morning, Nevada entrance polls showed something surprising: Paul won among voters who said that the most important quality in a candidate is that they are “a true conservative.”