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Is Ron Paul emerging from the fringe shadows of the GOP to become a serious candidate for President?
Some people feel the libertarian firebrand’s time is now.
Others say he will fade in the stretch. Paul started strong in 2008 with lots of enthusiasm and strong fundraising, along with strong finishes in some straw polls, but failed to translate that into votes in actual primaries and fell way short of the nomination.
Supporters now point to his second place finish in Saturday’s Iowa straw poll as an indication that Paul is ready for prime time.
A straw poll, however, is not a binding primary election or an actual indication of voter strength. It is a carefully-orchestrated event where candidates can “pack the room” with supporters and votes. Paul won the CPAC straw poll earlier this year.
Still, some feel Paul is gaining strength.
Writes Phillip Elliott of The Associated Press:
Ron Paul, once seen as a fringe candidate and a nuisance to the establishment, is shaping the 2012 Republican primary by giving voice to the party’s libertarian wing and reflecting frustration with the United States’ international entanglements.
The Texas congressman placed second in a key early test vote Saturday in Ames, coming within 152 votes of winning the first significant balloting of the Republican nominating contest. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won the nonbinding Iowa straw poll, but Paul’s organizational strength and a retooled focus on social issues set him up to be a serious player in the campaign.
Serious player? Others aren’t so sure.
Writes Andrew Malcolm of The Los Angeles Times:
Once upon a time the libertarian-like Paul was considered a fringe candidate.
He still is.
The trouble for mainstream Republicans is that Paul’s devoted disciples just keep on carving out apparent victories for the kindly old guy, whose son Rand is now a U.S. senator from Kentucky. The senior Paul is an Air Force vet and retired ob-gyn. He’s now five years older than John McCain was when everyone said John McCain was too old to move into the White House.
History would suggest he has little or no chance of becoming the nominee, let alone the president. But history also suggests that a dedicated band of hardcore believers could in a crowded field produce an upset win for Paul come that chilled caucus night in January. It worked for Huckabee, who won the caucuses in 2008 after finishing second in the 2007 straw poll.
Yes, Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses after finishing second in the straw poll.
But he didn’t get the nomination.
He didn’t even come close.
Even though Paul finished second in the straw poll, most political analysts still don’t consider him a serious contender.
“The Iowa results leaves the the Republican Party with a top tier of three contenders: Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry,” says Chuck Todd of NBC news.
Todd’s failure to mention Paul angered the Texas Congressman’s supporters and some — like Politico’s Roger Simon — agree the the media is ignoring Paul’s growing strength.
I admit I do not fully understand Ron Paul and his beliefs. But I do understand when a guy gets shafted, and Ron Paul just got shafted.
On Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll was conducted in Iowa amid huge media interest and scrutiny. The results were enough to force one Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, out of the race, and catapult another, Michele Bachmann, into the “top tier.”
There are so many “top tier” stories in the media today that I can barely count them, let alone read them all, and Bachmann is in all of them by virtue of her victory at Ames. The rest of the tier is made up of two candidates who skipped Ames, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
As The Daily Beast put it: “The new top tier of Bachmann, Perry, and Romney — created by Bachmann’s Iowa straw poll win, Perry’s entry into the race and Romney’s lead so far in many national and state polls — has unleashed torrents of talk about the reshaped race.”
Paul’s name was not mentioned in this piece nor in many others. A Wall Street Journal editorial Monday magnanimously granted Paul’s showing in the straw poll a parenthetical dismissal: “(Libertarian Ron Paul, who has no chance to win the nomination, finished a close second.)”
Which leaves Ron Paul where his has always been: The Rodney Dangerfield of American politics.