Texas Rep. Ron Paul earns 16 percent support for the Republican nomination in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, statistically unchanged from 15 percent in December and in the same range as Newt Gingrich (17 percent) and Rick Santorum (13 percent). Frontrunner Mitt Romney leads with 35 percent. (See the Post’s graphic showing each candidate over time).
What are Paul’s strongest groups? He performs especially well among independents who lean toward the Republican Party (23 percent support him), those with a high school education or less (23 percent), attend church less than weekly (22 percent), moderates and liberals (21 percent), and those under age 50 (20 percent).
Paul’s weakest groups? College grads (6 percent), weekly churchgoers (9 percent), white evangelical Protestants and strong tea party supporters (10 percent each).
Paul trails Obama by eight points in a hypothetical general election match-up, 49 to 41 percent in the new poll. He runs close with Obama among political independents, but wins only seven in 10 of self-identified Republicans. By comparison, Sen. John McCain won nine in 10 Republicans in 2008, according to exit polls.
Paul’s opposition to military intervention overseas is seen by 49 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents as a major reason to oppose him; about half as many as see it positively (25 percent). Fully half of Republican leaners think Paul, as president, would pursue policies that are unacceptable to most Americans, while fewer than four in 10 think he would pick policies that are acceptable.
Paul doesn’t lead the GOP field on any of the 12 issues and attributes tested in the poll. He does best on standing up for what he believes (19 percent) and being the most honest and trustworthy (18 percent).
The attacks leveled against Romney for breaking up companies while working at Bain Capital seem to be more tailor made for Paul. He runs closer with Romney (24 vs. 29 percent) among those who say the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy. But Romney holds a more than 20-point edge among those who see over-regulation of the free market as the bigger problem (38 percent Romney, 13 percent Paul).