* Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s easy to forget how well Ron Paul did in both early-voting states in 2012. In Iowa, he came in third — behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney — with 21.5 percent of the caucus vote. He was less than 4,000 total votes away from winning. In New Hampshire, Ron Paul finished second with 23 percent — wracking up almost 57,000 votes in the process. Combine his showing in those two states and Ron Paul did considerably better in actually attracting votes than more “establishment” candidates like Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty. So strong was the Paul organization in Iowa that it wound up taking over the state party apparatus — although A.J. Spiker’s decision not to run for a second term as party chairman will remove one prominent Paul-ite from the ranks of the Iowa Republican leadership.
* Libertarianism on the rise. There is, without question, an expanding libertarian streak within the Republican party — particularly among younger voters. The ideas of limiting foreign entanglements, spending less time cracking down on marijuana use and being OK with same-sex marriage are all growing in terms of their mindshare within the GOP. Need evidence? Six in ten young Republicans — defined as between 18-30 years of age — are in favor of same sex marriage in new Pew data. Rand Paul is positioned at the center of this movement and, if he is able to mobilize these libertarian-tinged Republicans, has a bloc of voters that none of the other Republican candidates can tap into.