Hey, Andrew Sullivan! Ron Paul could well win the Iowa caucuses. Seriously.
Why? Paul is polling in the neighborhood of Mitt Romney and not excessively behind Newt Gingrich. Neither of these men has invested in a ground game in Iowa, and neither has committed supporters energized to help muscle out a win by persuading wavering voters in each precinct meeting. In addition, Gingrich’s poll numbers are heavily inflated by desperate Republicans who would happily give George W. Bush’s younger brother a look before they’d support Mitt Romney. This is only good news if you’re a fan of schadenfreude—Gingrich’s faux-intellectual bluster is empty. Meanwhile, Romney’s ambivalence about Iowa is rivaled only by GOP voters’ ambivalence about his campaign.
Ron Paul, in contrast, doesn’t have casual backers. He’s the Chuck Norris of conservative political candidates—he boasts hyperbolic support from diehard, long-time fans that reverberates especially well on the Internet.* He’ll have fired-up Iowans at every precinct meeting in the state.
Furthermore: Romney’s campaign is having its worst few weeks of the nomination process. Gingrich is the most gaffe-prone Republican since Dan Quayle—No, George W. Bush! No, Rick Perry! No, since, um, ah, never mind! Gingrich is really gaffe-prone! He’s almost certain to kneecap himself between now and the caucuses.
Paul isn’t going to surprise anyone with a slump. His message hasn’t changed in decades. Since he doesn’t walk back his unpopular positions, his supporters know just what they’re choosing (i.e. cutting aid to Israel, eliminating a handful of cabinet departments, leaving Iran’s nuclear scientists to their own devices, etc). Ron Paul is the most consistent American presidential candidate since ever. To know him is to love—or hate—him. For a conservative electorate in dogged pursuit of ideological purity, Paul might just be the ticket.
Will Paul win in Iowa? If he did, would he have a chance at the nomination? It would probably still be unlikely. I don’t know. No one does. As a friend put it last night, “There’s still plenty of time for another Republican candidate to catch (and lose) a boomlet between now and the day of the caucuses…maybe Santorum?”
But…if Paul DOES win Iowa, remember that you heard it here second (since Paul’s supporters have been yelling something along these lines for years).
* “Know why Rick Perry couldn’t remember the names of all the departments he wanted to cut? BECAUSE RON PAUL HAD ALREADY ROUNDHOUSE KICKED THEM OUT OF WASHINGTON.”