Ron Paul probably doesn’t have much of a chance to win the Republican presidential nomination, but he has a good chance to put a kibosh on other candidates, The Hill
He has passionate followers and a strong campaign organization in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Candidates who finish behind Paul in either state could see their campaigns drop into a death spiral.
And at this point, it looks as if some candidates will finish behind. In the latest major poll of Iowa Republicans, conducted last week for Bloomberg News, Paul came in a statistical tie for the lead with Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich. Remember that Paul lost the Iowa Straw Poll by only 150 votes to Michele Bachmann in August.
Of course, most Republican politicos don’t see Paul with any chance to win the nomination because his libertarian views are too far out of synch with the party’s mainstream.
“His supporters are very passionate but they’re disconnected from the rest of the Republican voting population,” Tyler Harber, a Republican strategist who is neutral in the presidential race, told The Hill.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t do well in Iowa, where voters have to commit to a full-day caucus rather than just casting a ballot. “All of the campaigns have to take Ron Paul seriously. . . . He is that wedge — all the other campaigns have to outperform Ron Paul,” Harber said.
Any candidate Paul beats besides Romney may not recover, facing instead a shunning from the media and voters
It “would be deadly” for any candidate to finish behind Paul in Iowa or the other early primary/caucus states because it would damage the candidate’s election credibility, Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party, told The Hill.
“People are going to be like, ‘if you can’t beat Ron Paul, . . . how are you going to beat Barack Obama?’
Iowa’s power to knock out candidacies may be particularly strong this year, given the problems of many candidates. In addition, only Romney, Rick Perry and Paul have the financial resources to keep going without the fundraising momentum provided by victory in Iowa.
Romney hasn’t invested much in Iowa, so the state isn’t very important to him, but it is to the other candidates. “Usually I say there are three tickets punched out of Iowa, but this year I think there’s one,” Tim Albrecht, who worked for Romney in 2008 and is Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s communications director, told The Hill.
“Whoever wins or is second to Romney here, that second-place finisher tries to coalesce the non-Mitt supporters around him. I do think that Ron Paul is a big threat to the other candidates . . . They’re all just mired down there trying to be the alternative to Mitt Romney.”
Romney could end up being the biggest beneficiary of a strong showing for Paul. “Ron Paul could be the best thing that happened to Romney, he’s the line between the first and second tier,” Harber said. “He could be the spoiler and separate the rest of the field from Romney, and help give him a good win in Iowa or New Hampshire.”
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