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Going into next month’s Iowa caucuses, one of the big mysteries is Rep. Ron Paul.
His movement is unconventional, so it’s unclear that conventional polling gets a very good picture of its strength.
In the latest Iowa Poll by the Des Moines Register, the Texas Republican is tied for fifth place with Sen. John McCain of Arizona with 7 percentage points.
But that was a survey of 405 “likely caucus participants,” and the anti-war, libertarian-leaning Paul is reaching out beyond the traditional pool.
In the weeks leading up to the caucuses, Paul is putting part of his record-setting online fundraising to work with automated telephone calls to unaffiliated voters — presumably including independent-minded people who have never attended a Republican caucus before.
The Rocky Mountain News’ Des Moines bureau received one such call on Thursday night.
The recorded male voice identified the caller as an independent Iowa voter who supported Paul.
The message touted Paul’s congressional record — his famous opposition to anything vaguely resembling a tax increase, his call for securing the U.S.-Mexico border, etc.
And then it included an unconventional pitch to independents, saying that if they want to support Paul, they can change their voter registration to Republican, caucus for Paul on Jan. 3, 2008, and then change right back to independent shortly thereafter.
“We’re just making the point that it’s not permanent. There are a lot of people who would not be in the Republican Party without Ron Paul here,” said Jeff Jared, special projects coordinator for Paul’s Iowa campaign.
We’ll dub this the “Republican ONO” strategy — for “one night only.”
To caucus for Paul, “Some people feel they have to hold their nose and join the Republican Party,” said Jared, a Seattle lawyer who put his practice on hold so he could work for Paul in Iowa.
Jared speculated that for every one person who joins Republicans and quickly bolts after the caucus, there will be several who will stay. So it’s a net, long-term gain to bring new folks into the fold, he said.
So how much of a movement does Paul have underneath the numbers captured by traditional polling? Nobody knows.
“Anything new moving in that we’re attracting is not being measured in that,” Jared said.
(Contact M.E. Sprengelmeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org)