Ron Paul’s Ceiling

Meanwhile, in Ron Paul land, some supporters are in a tizzy that Fox News didn’t show Ron Paul in second or third as the results came in earlier today. They’ve got a point, but there’s a bigger question here about how the race changes if Paul finishes in second. As of now, Paul and John McCain are fighting for second, and CNN’s entrance polls show Paul pulling in more votes than McCain.

As we’ve already discussed , Paul and Romney were the only two candidates campaigning in the state in recent weeks, so Paul should be expected to finish second. But he may not get there. As of now, McCain is widening his lead on Paul for second. The good news is that the three- or four-point bump from Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s results could confirm that Paul’s libertarian message can do better out West than it can in the rest of the country.

But this probably won’t matter much for Paul’s momentum going forward. Paul already has a ton of money, so he doesn’t need any of the added funds a solid finish will bring in. Plus, he’s trailing badly in South Carolina and Florida , so any momentum out of Nevada would be lost very quickly.

In many ways, Nevada is an ideal state for Paul, yet his percentage of support still couldn’t break into the teens * . This may be the closest look we’ll get at Paul’s ceiling as a Republican, and it doesn’t seem to be all that high.

UPDATE 6:27 p.m.: Paul now leads McCain with nearly all precincts reporting.

*UPDATE Jan. 20, 7:06 p.m.: Paul broke into the teens, netting 13 percent .