LabRat, on the Iowa Republican caucus:
Dear media at large: Paul coming in a close third is not a sign there is something wrong with Iowa, it is a sign there is something, perhaps many things, wrong in general. The gentlefolk of Iowa were not particularly inclined to the Wookie vote before, but they have to choose from among what they are offered. Mitt Romney does not appear to believe in anything beyond his own suitability, Rick Santorum appears to believe very strongly in enclosing America with a sweaty clinch of right-thinking government, and Paul at least appears to consistently and verifiably believe nine sane things for every tenth barking mad one.
Hear, hear. Paul has serious policy issues,* and serious personal issues,** so that as a libertarian I dearly wish we had a better representative, but look at the alternatives. He strikes me as by far the least-bad of a field of much more terrible options, and for some precise reasons I think he may be the best thing that could happen to the US at this moment in time, though many of his positions may be harmful individually. I'd vote for him over the others without a doubt.
But the United States, though traditionally a nation of crotchety and disagreeable individualists, has emphatically never been a libertarian nation. At every point in our history we've embraced at least some laws aimed at making society harmonious that fail the libertarian test hard. We don't go for social planning or redistribution of wealth anywhere near as enthusiastically as our international peers, but we've never, as a nation, been willing to crusade against the very idea of forcibly seizing Martha's property to help Harry as a matter of principle.
If Americans are voting in non-trivial numbers for a fairly hardcore libertarian candidate, that should tell you quite a bit about how disgusted they are with the other options they're being offered.
[* - Not least of which is a lack of answers for some serious foreign policy questions.]
[** - I don't think the racist newsletter thing compels me to vote against him any more than the President's association with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers compelled his supporters to vote against him, but neither should it be glibly dismissed.]