Could the Big Winner of the Iowa Caucuses Be… Ron Paul?
Ron Paul was supposed to do pretty well in Iowa… but this well?
There has been some major movement in the Republican Presidential race in Iowa over the last week, with what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich now all the way down to a single point. Gingrich is at 22% to 21% for Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.
Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he’s also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers. Last week he was at +31 (62/31) and he’s now dropped 19 points to +12 (52/40). The attacks on him appear to be taking a heavy toll- his support with Tea Party voters has declined from 35% to 24%.
Paul, meanwhile, has seen a big increase in his popularity from +14 (52/38) to +30 (61/31). There are a lot of parallels between Paul’s strength in Iowa and Barack Obama’s in 2008- he’s doing well with new voters, young voters, and non-Republican voters.
Readers of this newsletter will recall that I have increasing respect for Ron Paul (particularly his longstanding skepticism of the wisdom of the Federal Reserve) but still find him far from my first choice as a Republican presidential candidate. And while I have no particular beef with Iowans, I find the state and its near-isolationist, agriculture-driven, almost communitarian political culture far from ideal to play such a pivotal role in the nomination process. So in a strange way, seeing Ron Paul win Iowa would be just peachy from where I sit.
At the Daily Caller, Steven Nelson observes, “In early November, pollster John Zogby predicted that if Cain exited the race, his supporters could help buoy Paul’s numbers since so many Cain devotees identified as libertarians. “Anti-government libertarians are running out of candidates to support,” he observed. If Paul does win in Iowa, he could enter the New Hampshire primary with significant momentum. In most polls in the Granite State, Paul places third behind Gingrich and Romney.”
At Hot Air, Allahpundit sees a formula for chaos – and for some Republicans not that enthused about the current field, that might not be such a bad thing!
I’ll bet Romney’s kicking himself now for not having abandoned Iowa early on. If he had done that, he could have sent his supporters out to caucus for Paul, thereby detonating Newt’s chances; if he tried that now, having competed in earnest in the state, the headlines would be all about Romney’s shockingly poor finish in Iowa, which would actually help Gingrich in New Hampshire even if he finished second to Paul in the caucuses. (On the other hand, per Rasmussen, Paul’s just four points back of Gingrich for second place in New Hampshire too.) Two exit questions for you, then. One: As chances of a Paul upset grow, will Iowa’s Republican leaders swing behind Newt or Mitt? They want the caucuses to remain relevant to choosing the eventual nominee, and if Paul wins, that’ll be two elections in a row where the Iowa winner realistically had no chance. Two: Could a Paul victory achieve a real “none of the above” outcome for the nomination? A brokered convention is unlikely – but, as Sean Trende explains, not impossible if Paul fares well… Ron Paul winning Iowa just might mean the GOP nominating Ryan, Christie, or Daniels. Second look at Ron Paul winning Iowa?
Karl at Patterico’s Pontifications sees this shaking out the same way; Ron Paul will get his moment in the sun (maybe a few weeks, really) and Iowa will be tainted as too quirky and unpredictable to be given such a key role in the selection process: “I would note that we kept seeing polls suggesting Romney is a second-choice vote for many… and yet, voters keep selecting alternate candidates as their first choice, don’t they? If Paul somehow pulls out a win in Iowa, the real winners may be people tired of the importance pols and pundits have placed on the Iowa caucuses.”
Bachmann’s win in the Ames Straw Poll has certainly proven irrelevant, hasn’t it? Sure, she led through July and most of August, but here is her level of support in the last six polls: 8 percent, 9 percent, 7 percent, 9 percent, 11 percent, 10 percent. She’s not an asterisk, but that’s pretty much an afterthought. And if Ames can become irrelevant… can the Iowa caucuses themselves become virtually irrelevant?