Interesting. The top three were Romney, Santorum, and Paul. But as Roger L. Simon points out at PJMedia:
There were almost no significant policy distinctions between the candidates in the domestic arena. All were basically minor differences, although often inflated for political purposes. What set the candidates apart were qualities of personality, electability and experience, not the issues.As Simon points out, by that measure, Ron Paul's foreign policy was rejected overwhelmingly: 79-21. There is also reason to wonder if some of Paul's support came from Democrats who see him as the weakest nominee to run against Obama. (You could declare yourself a Republican when entering the caucuses, apparently.) Jim Geraghty over at National Review Online points out:
Only in the area of foreign affairs was there a substantive policy difference and in that area one candidate — Ron Paul — stood out. He was the sole isolationist (or even relative isolationist) on the stage. Every other candidate was considerably firmer than the incumbent president in his or her support for a strong American defense, not to mention for a steadfast opposition to a nuclear Iran. Paul was by himself on the opposite side, further to the left on national defense than Barack Obama.
According to the entrance polls, 38 percent of caucus-goers had never voted in a GOP caucus before; of those, by far the largest share, 37 percent, voted for Ron Paul. Among the registered so-called independents who took part in the caucus, 48 percent voted for Ron Paul, way ahead of anyone else. Next highest was Romney with 16 percent.Some of this may be Democrats crossing over to support what they perceive as a weak challenger to Obama. But to be fair, Ron Paul support is strongest among younger voters, who generally lack the experience (or is it cynicism?) to recognize that Paul's foreign policy is likely to be lethal to America and the West in the long run.
Nonetheless, I agree with Sarah Palin that we have to be careful not to make Ron Paul's supporters feel marginalized. Much of what Ron Paul has to say is completely sensible, especially the financial Armageddon that is coming, if we don't clean up the madness in Washington.
I confess to having really mixed feelings about Santorum's strong showing. I like Santorum's social conservativism. I also recognize that he is likely to be a weak candidate to put up against Obama. I would like someone who has been governor of a state, because of the experience of dealing with a state legislature. (It's a shame that Rick Perry seemed to lose his memory during debates; it is a shame that Pawlenty dropped out of the race so early; it's a shame that Sarah Palin could not finish her second term as governor of Alaska.)
I also recognize that Santorum's very accurate assessment of where the logic of Lawrence v. Texas (2003) would likely lead means that he is going to be a lightning rod of disapproval from that vast majority of Americans who are not comfortable with traditional Christian sexual morality. (Or, for that matter, Christian morality in any of a number of areas.) I really want someone like Santorum as president, but I recognize that this is not possible in a country where most Catholics have no problem voting for pro-abortion politicians, and most evangelical Protestants prefer pastors who tell funny stories that don't challenge them to think over pastors who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.