Iowa Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich is really disliked by the so-called "GOP Establishment." These are the folks who backed George H.W. Bush against Ronald Reagan in 1980; sat back and watched Bob Dole take one for the team in 1996; and generally want a candidate who feels comfortable in his own Ivy League skin and alligator shoes.
But if you think they don't like Gingrich, they have total disdain for Rep. Ron Paul, whom they consider a disheveled, quirky, and deranged little man. Of course, that much of what Paul says makes complete sense does not stop them from deriding him as a loose cannon who sees conspiracies and Trilateral Commissions around every corner.
So a funny thing happened on the way to the Iowa caucus this year. The "establishment" hero, Mitt Romney, losing ground, decided to launch a not-so-subtle attack against Gingrich. His efforts included quotes from disgruntled ex-colleagues of the former House speaker and all sorts of veiled references to how Romney was a real "family man." The whole effort fell flat on its face, and Romney plummeted in the polls to fourth place.
But these grand leaders of the Grand Old Party don't go down without a fight. And they have an unusual weapon to use this go around. It is none other than the man they laugh about behind his back, Dr. Ron Paul.
I have never made it a secret that, despite the fact he can't seem to find a suit jacket that can fit him, Ron Paul makes a heck of a lot more sense to me than most of the GOP candidates.
For example, I am convinced that Michele Bachmann would say anything for two votes and an applause line. Rick Santorum has really grown on me, but he just seems a bit too anxious to be the leader of the free world. And Rick Perry seems like the guy I'd like to kick back with and talk politics . . . the problem is he can't seem to talk about it coherently when it counts.
So there you have it. Three articulate candidates — Newt, Mitt, and Ron. As for actual knowledge of government, experience in the conservative trenches and political acumen, Gingrich stands alone. As for looking like a president, giving solid if sometimes "made to order" answers, it's Romney who stands out. But when it comes to sticking to the Constitution, ending America's role as "policeman for the world" and kicking the Federal Reserve right where it belongs, Paul is the real deal.
So as we face just three weeks before the Iowa caucus, Paul is racing up the charts, pulling votes from every other conservative and, consequently, will likely turn Iowa into a shocker that Romney can shake off, or at least a close enough free-for-all that any loss he sustains will seem insignificant.
Now I'm told that the great Ann Coulter intends to take Gingrich to the woodshed this week, questioning his conservative credentials. Lord knows, I won't argue with such a bright and successful person. But I will ask one question of her. Ann, when we were toiling in little offices on the Hill back in 1982 coming up with the Conservative Opportunity Society, where were you? Do you even know what that group was or who led it? It was Newt Gingrich.
I respect Coulter as a great pundit, writer, and personality, but if you are going to call Romney "the conservative" in the GOP race for president, why not throw a bone to a man like Paul — who really stands for the freedom and liberty we all cherish.
Or better yet, don't trash Gingrich in an effort to rewrite Republican history. I don't need to read it — I lived it.
So keep your eyes peeled for the "revisionist historians" on one side and the patriotic candidate with the bad-fitting suit on the other. They mean no harm. After all, it's just the presidency we are talking about.
Matt Towery is author of the book "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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