Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has visited Idaho five times since the beginning of 2012. He has not visited some of the other Super Tuesday states at all, and he has only visited one other state more than once — the comparatively small North Dakota. By contrast, Gingrich has visited Georgia — the top delegate state — eight times in the same time frame and Romney and Santorum have both visited dead-locked Ohio many, many times.
Paul, by going to Idaho and North Dakota, is the GOP's equivalent of Billy Bean trying to replace his star line up after losing them all to other big budget teams. In one of the opening scenes of the movie based Jon Lewis' Moneyball, Brad Pitt listens to his advisers talk about how to replace Jason Giambi. What he finds out though, after meeting Jonah Hill's character — Yale educated Peter Brand — is that he should be thinking not about how to replace human beings on a roster, but how to make up stats in abstraction. Paul has made the same realization and is playing Moneyball in the GOP primary. He's going for delegates, the people who actually matter, rather than chasing percentage points in the nightly recaps of the major networks.
The premise of the strategy is that in states with caucuses and unbound delegates there is a lot of wiggle room between who gets the most votes in the state and who the delegates from that state support. By diligently leaning the minutiae of local delegate selection processes and employing an army of dedicated citizens, Paul has been able to stack district, and then county, and then congressional-level delegates with people who are supportive of his candidacy. This means that publicized lists of Paul's delegates are completely unrepresentative of his success to date.
For example, in Larimer county in Colorado, Paul's strategy was used with deadly effect. The Guardian summarized the story this way, "In one precinct in Larimer County there were 13 delegate slots available. Santorum had won the precinct's vote by 23 votes to Paul's 13, with five votes going to Romney. But Paul supporters took all the delegate slots."
Idaho might go the same way. Paul won 25% of the votes in Idaho in 2008 (one of his best showings) and he is trying to capitalize on that success. If Paul combined a good showing in the Idaho caucuses, he could see similar success.
Like Bille Beane's strategy in Moneyball, Paul's ground game is a money-saving option. Paul actually has plenty of money (unlike Bean's A's), but his strategy has allowed him to get by without spending very much of it. For instance, the total spending of Paul and his allies in Super Tuesday states is less than 1/80 of what the Rom-squad has spent. That allows him to "purchase" delegates very cheaply. He's Moneyballin'.
It's not clear there are enough unbound delegates for Ron Paul to wheedle his way into an outright win (most Super Tuesday states' delegates are bound), but the other candidates may be surprised to find out how receptive the GOP national convention will be to libertarian ideals. This will give Paul huge influence over the direction of the Republican Party.
Photo Credit: everett Taasevigen