Nate Silver's forecast now gives Ron Paul a 40 percent chance of winning the Iowa caucus – the same chance the forecast gives Romney.
A key fact about this development – largely missed by most media – is the extent to which it is driven by Democratic and independent voters planning to vote for Paul as a means of opposing endless war. While media may miss this story now, if election-night exit polls show antiwar Democrats and independents gave Paul the margin of victory, that story will appear in media around the world.
A survey published by Public Policy Polling on Sunday gave the following numbers:
Ron Paul: 23 percent
Mitt Romney: 20 percent
Newt Gingrich: 14 percent
But what was more interesting about the Public Policy Polling survey is what it revealed about who was planning to vote in the caucus for Paul:
Paul's base of support continues to rely on some unusual groups for a Republican contest. Among voters under 45 he's at 33 percent to 16 percent for Romney and 11 percent for Gingrich. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24 percent of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters.
So, according to this poll, if the Iowa caucus were restricted to “GOP voters,” Romney would be narrowly ahead. But since Democrats and independents can vote, Paul is narrowly ahead.
If the election were held today, and this poll were predictive of the result, then exit polling would show that the margin of victory for Paul was provided by antiwar Democrats and independents. And that would be a key election-night story, on the front page and TV across the nation and around the world.
Note that if this result occurs, then it will be driven by the actions of roughly 8,400 people. Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post gives 100,000 as a rough expert consensus guesstimate of turnout. If 24 percent of those are Democrats and independents, that's 24,000 people. If 35 percent of those Democrats and independents support Paul at the caucus, that's 8,400 people.
Suppose that peace groups in Iowa decided to have a big peace demonstration in Des Moines. And suppose they were able to get 8,400 people to come. That would be a huge turnout. Such a turnout would likely cost many weeks of planning and negotiations, a zillion conference calls, lots of organizing time, and, of course, transportation and time costs to get everyone to Des Moines.
How much coverage would such a demonstration likely get in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN? Zero.
This peace demonstration requires no conference calls, no negotiations, no money, no organizing time. No one has to go to Des Moines who isn't already there; they just have to walk to their nearby caucus. All the logistics have been organized by someone else. Media coverage is guaranteed.
If these 8,400 people show up to the caucus to support Paul, they will be largely acting on their own initiative. It will be, as a German peace activist once put it, “the spontaneous self-activity of the masses.”