GOP Outsider Ron Paul Gaining Traction In Iowa

Texas Rep. Ron Paul is emerging as a significant factor in the Republican presidential race, especially in Iowa.

He's been long dismissed by the GOP establishment, but the libertarian-leaning candidate is now turning heads beyond his hard-core followers - and rising in some polls - just weeks before the state holds the leadoff presidential caucuses and four years since his failed 2008 bid.

Paul's sharp criticism of government spending and U.S. monetary policy hasn't changed since then.

And while his isolationist brand of foreign policy may be a non-starter for some establishment Republicans, its appeal among independents is helping Paul gain ground in a crowded Republican field. His boost is an indication of just how volatile the Republican presidential race is in this state and across the country.

"The good news is the country has changed in the last four years in a way I never would have believed," Paul told about 80 Republicans and independents at the Pizza Ranch restaurant in this town on Friday. "In the last four years, something dramatic has happened."

What has helped Paul rise here has been more methodic than dramatic.

His campaign here is a stark comparison to the shoestring, rag-tag operation of four years ago that attracted a narrow band of supporters.

This time, he has built an Iowa organization with the look of a more mainstream campaign.

He has raised more money, hired three times the staff and started organizing his campaign in Iowa earlier than before. Paul was the first candidate to begin airing television ads this fall, and has maintained the most consistent advertising schedule in Iowa.

"We have a more structured, methodical, traditional campaign with Ron Paul here in Iowa more often," said Drew Ivers, an Iowa Republican Party central committee member and Paul's Iowa campaign chairman.

Paul is better-known this time, and has spent almost twice as much time in Iowa at this point in the 2012 campaign than in his bid for the 2008 caucuses. Paul finished in fifth place, closely behind Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson in Iowa in 2008.

The intense focus on Iowa this time may be working, with surveys showing Paul is reaching deeper into the caucus electorate.

A recent Bloomberg News poll showed him in close second place in Iowa, behind Herman Cain and narrowly ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The same poll showed more Iowa caucus-goers had been contacted by the Paul campaign than any of the other six GOP campaigns actively competing for the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Two weeks earlier, The Des Moines Register's poll showed Paul in solid third place, behind Cain and Romney.

And Paul seems to have been able to sustain his support after finishing a close second in the Iowa GOP's August straw poll, while straw poll winner Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota representative, has dipped in Iowa polls since.

But it's unclear whether Paul can cobble together broad enough support to win the caucuses with a plurality of the vote. At the very least, he will impact the results of the contest. But to what degree is anyone's guess.

The one thing that hasn't changed from four years ago is Paul's style.

He remains the mild-mannered, professorial former obstetrician, delivering long explanations of the history of U.S. monetary and trade policy.

In Anamosa, the audience of more than 130 at the small town's community center applauded when he said he would propose cutting $1 trillion from the federal deficit his first year in office, primarily by vastly reducing U.S. foreign aid.

But he also called for shrinking the military budget by reducing the U.S. military presence around the world, arguing that Congress and military contractors are too closely tied together.

"Yes, we have to have national security, but we don't get it by bankrupting our country and being in everyone's face constantly," Paul said.

The sentiment rings true with Charles Betz, a 47-year-old network engineer from nearby Tama, Iowa. He has typically been an independent voter, but is registered as a Republican so he can caucus for Paul on Jan. 3.

It's Paul's foreign and national security policy that has drawn fire from establishment Republicans. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is competing with Paul in Iowa for the outsider vote, has been vocally critical of Paul's stance.

So has Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican who has been courted by most of the GOP candidates.

"I gave Paul credit for having the most ambitious plan to reduce the debt, which he does," Branstad told The Associated Press. "But I don't agree with him on foreign policy, at all. I'm real concerned with his views on that."

Paul's rivals have particularly criticized his view that Iran does not pose a serious threat to the U.S., a point Paul made again Friday.

"Think about how the war drums were beating to get into Iraq. None of it was true, and I don't believe the stories now about why we should be shaking in our boots over Iran," he said. "They are absolutely incapable of attacking us."

Paul was traveling from small-town Vinton to equally small Anamosa Friday, before capping the day with a major rally in metropolitan Cedar Rapids, where he was to be endorsed by the founder of the Cedar Rapids tea party.

His focus isn't limited to Iowa.

Paul will be in New Hampshire early next week, where he finished fifth four years ago.

This time, Paul's fiscally-conservative profile combined with his anti-interventionist foreign policy could help him do better.

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  • by the GOP CLOWN show on Nov 19, 2011 at 03:48 PM
    "he is not as "polished" as some off the others" Ha ha Ha Ha ah, (on the floor laughing). If you call the rest of the GOP polished......never mind.
    • reply
      by uh on Nov 20, 2011 at 07:56 PM in reply to the GOP CLOWN show
      I disagree there. If you ask Ron Paul a question about history, geography, science, foreign and/or domestic policy, he will answer it with consistency. He departs from the party line, but that's because he was the tea party, before there was a tea party. I think he's wrong on a lot of things, but he appears to be the most sincere of the bunch. What frightens the behind-the-scenes GOP is he won't tow the party line at specific lobbyists' requests. He may not win the election, he may not win the primary, but he's the most consistent, clean candidate there is right now.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM
    He's the only one up there with common sense and calls it the way it is, honestly. He may win the majority of independent voters. He's the most honest of the bunch and I believe he could do the job well but for some reason I do not believe he will get the nomination only because he is not as "polished" as some off the others and there is probably doubt that he could be a winner. My thinking may be wrong and you know what, may my thinking needs to be wrong in this case because we need a very honest person in the top stop who sees it for what it is and how it is. Just my 2 cents worth.
  • by This guy Location: Goldsboro on Nov 19, 2011 at 11:19 AM
    If you want a crackhead for President, vote Ron Paul!
  • by mike Location: midway park N.C., on Nov 19, 2011 at 10:34 AM
    Ron Paul talks just like Obama on many subjects.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Nov 19, 2011 at 10:11 AM
    Now you folks are going to jump on the Ron Paul bandwagon..LOL I tell you, you folks are as lost as a needle in a haystack. Time is winding down folks, when are you going to find a candidate that can go against Obama? I mean really you guys need to stop kidding around and get serious
    • reply
      by WOW on Nov 20, 2011 at 07:45 AM in reply to Lavon
      I've got a not so smart Golden Retreiver that shouldn't have too much problem beating the Community Organizer-In-Chief. Th is unless he gets beat in the primaries by a well dressed Pomeranian...
      • reply
        by Geeszzz on Nov 20, 2011 at 04:17 PM in reply to WOW
        I suggest you put your Golden Retriever in the next GOP debate. I'm sure he will do a better job than the current candidates the GOP have. At least he will do tricks and bark for his food. Hey, he's got them beat already!
  • by Go Ron! on Nov 19, 2011 at 07:17 AM
    I hope he wins
    • reply
      by doc on Nov 19, 2011 at 03:00 PM in reply to Go Ron!
      if i were going to vote for a republican ron paul would be the one

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