Ron Paul‘s niche support among specific libertarian and right-wing voters keeps him hovering near first place in Iowa as state’s unique caucus primary system approaches but his band of rabid supporters forget one thing.
A win in Iowa doesn’t translate into long-term political success or the Republican nomination for President.
Just ask former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa four years with support form the same cadres of narrow-interest voters that now flock around Paul. A few weeks later, Huckabee was history.
“Iowa is a lot of hoopla but little else,” says Michael Jander, who worked for Huckabee in 2008. “It’s a kind of political drunk. You feel real good when it happens but the hangover afterwards is a real bitch.”
Four years ago, Paul — a Texas Congressman with a small but loyal and vocal following, generated some campaign buzz with stronger than expected fundraising but that buzz did not bring him many delegates or serious contention for the nomination.
This time around, his campaign organization looks more traditional and supporters point to a stronger showing in New Hampshire polls to bolster their hope that this will be the year, but while Paul is tied with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire with about 14 percent, neither is anywhere close to frontrunner Mitt Romney‘s 41 percent.
Romney isn’t wasting much time on Iowa, where tea party conservatives, home schoolers and extreme right-wingers control the caucus process.
“Iowa is the political pre-season,” says GOP activist Albert Knowles. “The race for the cut begins with New Hampshire.”
Says David Peleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center:
Every Republican candidate that surges in the national polls hits a firewall in New Hampshire. We’ve seen this with surges from Bachmann, Perry, Cain and now Gingrich. A Romney loss here is highly improbable, and Romney’s best insurance policy in New Hampshire is Ron Paul, whose fixed support takes 14 percent off the table.
Paul, however, is going all-out in Iowa, hoping that a win there can give him momentum and credibility that his past campaigns have lacked.
“It’s a gamble but one Ron Paul has to take,” says one long-time GOP consultant. “This is his third try and at 76 this is his last shot.”
Paul is the oldest candidate in the crowded GOP field.