The Washington Post

Ron Paul’s Virginia surprise

In the days leading up to the Virginia primary, the common assumption was that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would romp to a victory over Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

(Romney and Paul were the only two candidates who qualified for the ballot in the Commonwealth.)

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) gestures during his speech to supporters at a "Super Tuesday" primary election night rally at a caucus site in Fargo, North Dakota, March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Dave Weaver

But, with nearly all the votes counted in the Commonwealth, Paul is receiving 41 percent of the vote statewide. That is by far the largest percentage of the vote he has won in any state since he began running for president in 2008. Paul’s previous high was 35 percent in the Maine caucuses last month.

Paul almost certainly benefited from the fact that he was the only non-Romney on the ballot in Virginia. People who support former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum likely cast their vote for Paul not because they support the Texas libertarian but because they want to weaken Romney.

And, Paul’s showing — though it exceeded expectations — won’t help him much in the delegate chase. Paul looks likely to win just three of the state’s 46 delegates with Romney netting the other 43.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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