It was no surprise that Mitt Romney won the Virginia Republican Primary by a landslide. The bigger surprise was how Ron Paul ended up with 40.5 percent of the vote and did exponentially better than he did in the state in 2008.
The Texas congressman failed to win any of the other primaries on Super Tuesday, and the campaign was particularly dissappointed about losses in the Idaho, Alaska and North Dakota caucuses, where they hoped low turnout would give Paul's loyal, dedicated supporters a strong presence. Paul's better-than-expected support in Viriginia, however, was enough for the GOP hopeful to keep his message in the Super Tuesday narrative.
The cause of liberty is on a roll, Paul said in Fargo, North Dakota, a state where he placed a distant second behind Romney but ahead of Rick Santorum.
Virginia was already a unique contest because Paul and Romney were the only candidates on the ballot. Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum failed to get the required number of signatures by Virginia's deadline and did not qualify for the ballot.
Expectations were still low for Paul because an NBC/Marist poll ahead of the primary had Romney leading Paul 69 percent to 26 percent. In 2008, Paul only garnered 4.5 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, however, Paul ended up with 40.5 percent to Romney's 59.5 percent, talkingpointsmemo reported -- his highest percentage in a contest to date. While most predicted that Romney would get all 49 delegates, Paul walked away with three of them.
There are a few reasons why the Texas congressman got a surprisingly strong turnout. For one, Paul was able to take advantage of the smaller competition. He also won 12 counties, according to the New York Times.
Another reason may be because Virginia is an open primary, in which any Virginia voter can participate regardless of party affiliation. Exit polls revealed that Paul was popular among independents; nearly two thirds of voters who did not identify themselves as Republican voted for Paul, according to the Associated Press.
Within the Republican Party, however, Paul is a fringe candidate who conservative voters don't see as electable. Among voters who thought beating President Barack Obama in the general election was the most important quality, 80 percent chose Romney.