In yet another poll released Monday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has gained even more ground over his Republican rivals in Iowa. As Paul’s surge seems to be occurring at the most opportune time, and since most major media outlets refuse to cover his campaign, it is time to look at who is actually driving the Paul craze. What the numbers show is probably not very shocking, but they might also bear out that perhaps, should Paul win the nomination, he may be the most electable candidate in the field.
According to the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) research, Paul leads all other candidates in Iowa. In this week’s poll, he is up 2 percentage points to 23%, while Mitt Romney, who placed second in this poll, was up 4 points to 20%. Newt Gingrich was the biggest loser, falling to 14% from 22%.
Paul’s advantage, according to the PPP report, comes from his appeal to young voters and those who identify as Democrat or Independent. He has close to a 20 point lead over his next closest competitor, Romney, in the under-45 category, and an 11 point lead among democrats and independents. In addition, Paul has the highest favorability rating of all the candidates. What is important in these numbers is that Paul has shown exactly what he said in the Sioux City debate, that persistence in a clear, unambiguous message eventually pays off.
In 2008, Paul placed fifth in Iowa. This time around, things are looking much different. He is making a strong run at a victory in the first state to cast ballots. The establishment – while not actually yet fearing a Paul nomination for president – is beginning to quake a little at the prospect of having to pay attention to the positions of this libertarian insurgent.
Nobody is giving Paul a chance to win the nomination, but if an outsider is ever going to win, whether he is an outsider in his own party or a third party candidate, it will be because of a strange, heterogeneous grouping of disaffected voters. The country may just have the right mix of these malcontents to send Paul deep into the primary season.
The mood of the country is disastrously negative. Unemployment, rising mortgage and loan costs, a do-nothing Congress, and lack of leadership at the highest reaches of government have left average citizens hurting. No one seems to be able to pinpoint the cause of the trouble. Congress’ approval rating has hovered at or near all-time lows and the White House’s popularity is weak too. With leaders from both sides squabbling over every proposal to the point that nothing at all is accomplished, it is easy to see why people are looking for alternatives to more of the same.
Paul is that alternative. He is as outside the Washington establishment as it can get, even though he has served 21 years in the House. The beltway power brokers do not know what to do with him. He’s either too conservative (more often than not) or too liberal (only if you support interventionist foreign policy).
If, by a miracle, Paul were to actually win the nomination for Republicans, how he would fair against President Barack Obama opens up some interesting questions. The staunchly Republican voters would have two choices, vote for Paul or vote against Paul. Republican voters that pulled the lever against him would have to do so knowing that in effect they would be pulling the lever for Obama. Essentially, assuming the Republicans hated Obama more than Paul, a big assumption I know, the election would come down to the all-important third segment of the population — the independent voter. Obama won on the strength of young voters and independents, precisely the same group that is attracted to Paul.
It is still highly unlikely that Paul will make it out of the first three primary states with the kind of popularity he is enjoying at the moment. Even if he wins Iowa and has a strong showing in New Hampshire, his disconnect with the so-called mainstream of the GOP will begin to weigh heavily on his campaign. But as former Tea Party darlings line up behind the Johnny-come-lately conservatism of Mitt Romney and the inside baseball politics of Newt Gingrich, the only through and through conservative will be doing what he has always done – standing up for liberty, defending freedom, and winning the hearts and minds of the young and independent.
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