Why Ron Paul Will Win the 2012 Iowa Caucus Over Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich
The first presidential contest of 2012 in Iowa is only a week away. Today, many Republican strategists fear the worse—A Ron Paul victory in Iowa. The party establishment's worst fears will be confirmed next week. Here are four reasons why.
1. Ron Paul is the Favorite According to a Recent Poll.
A new Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of 333 likely Iowa Republican caucus goers finds Ron Paul in the top spot among GOP presidential candidates with 27.5 percent, followed closely by Newt Gingrich with 25.3 percent. Paul's lead over Gingrich is within the poll's margin of error at plus or minus 5 percentage points. Mitt Romney is in third place at 17.5 percent, while Rick Perry is the only other candidate to poll in double digits at 11.2.
While Paul's lead is just over 2 percentage points and easily within the poll's margin of error, it may actually be more solid than it appears.
"What our poll says is that 51 percent of Paul's supporters say they're definitely backing him," said James McCormick, professor and chair of political science at Iowa State and coordinator of the poll. "The percentage for the next two candidates is much weaker, at 16.1 for Mitt Romney and 15.2 for Newt Gingrich. Moreover, the percentage of respondents 'leaning to' or 'still undecided' in their support for these latter two candidates remains high, at 58 percent for Gingrich and 38 percent for Romney. I'm going to make the case that these numbers are still very soft for those two candidates."
In other words, people who have committed to Paul are much less likely to change their minds than the supporters of the other GOP candidates.
2. Ron Paul Has the Best Organization in Iowa
The caucuses are not won by opinion polls alone. They’re won by the politician who can pack Iowa’s churches, libraries and community centers at 7 p.m. exactly on a frigid January Tuesday, and whose supporters won’t suddenly decide to back a different candidate during an hour’s worth of jawing, dealing and very public voting.
Unlike other “flavors of the week” of the GOP contest, Paul hasn't surged into the lead all of a sudden -- he's grown his support gradually, earning supporters the hard way.
And that's why Paul's surge to first place has to be taken seriously. Alone among the candidates, he has built an organizational machine to recruit and identify caucus-goers and turn them out on Jan. 3. Paul's rise in Iowa isn't a bubble. It's a mound, and it is rock solid.
Four years ago, Paul's campaign was a ragtag band of idealistic rebels. This mostly nonprofessional operation of largely self-organizing grass-roots supporters was enough to get him 10 percent of the vote in Iowa and 8 percent in New Hampshire.
This time, it's a different story. In Iowa especially, Paul's campaign has built a sophisticated voter turnout machine. With its intensely dedicated core of youthful followers recruiting non-party regulars to the caucus electorate, it is reminiscent of nothing so much as Barack Obama's 2008 Iowa campaign, which was his springboard to the Democratic nomination.
"It is vastly different than four years ago," said A.J. Spiker, a realtor from Ames who sits on the state GOP Central Committee. "We have a professional staff now who know what to do and are better able to direct all the energy of the volunteers." For example, instead of standing on corners waving signs -- something Paul supporters are well known for, but which has little impact on voters -- volunteers have been put to work going door to door in their communities.
Paul's ability to bring out non-traditional caucus-goers parallels Mike Huckabee's successful 2008 Iowa campaign, which rallied many evangelical Christians who weren't previously politically active.
"If anybody's bringing new people out this time, it's Ron Paul," said Christopher Rants, a former speaker of the state House of Representatives who supports Mitt Romney. "Last time, it was Mike Huckabee."
Even Paul’s opponents admit his machine is the best of the GOP field. Iowa conservative radio host Steve Deace and Gingrich supporter said this about Paul-- "His organization is one of the best political organizations in Iowa. The only two politicians with a better organization in Iowa are Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley," the state's two U.S. senators.
3. Newt Gingrich is Fading
Because six of every ten Iowans who participated in the 2008 Republican contest said they were born-again or evangelical Christians, moral values matter a lot in this contest.
With that in mind, Newt Gingrich's marital problems have come back to haunt him in Iowa where Christian conservatives are split over whether they can look beyond his past infidelities and endorse him for the January 3 caucuses.
And Gingrich’s enemies have exploited this perceived weakness. More than $1million in negative advertising - much of it bankrolled by Mitt Romney's allies - has eroded Newt Gingrich's standing in Iowa.
An anonymous independent group calling itself Iowans for Christian Leadership is urging conservatives not to back Gingrich, in light of his two divorces and past marital infidelity.
However, Gingrich has heavier baggage than his marital issues. Ron Paul has attacked Gingrich’s conservative record, calling it a “serial hypocrisy”-- How can conservatives settle on a Medicare Part D-supporting, Freddie Mac-advising, Nancy Pelosi-snuggling Washington insider like Gingrich?
In light of these relentless attacks from opponents and independent groups, Gingrich, who a month ago was polling at 40%, has tampered down his expectations in Iowa as his polling numbers declined.
4. There is No Democratic Contest this Year.
Unlike 2008, there will be no contest for the Democratic Party's nomination. That’s good news for Paul because in Iowa, independents and Democrats can register on the day of the caucus, making the switch over to Republican very easy. Independents and Democrats who voted in the Democratic caucus will not have to choose, as they did in 2008, between voting in the Democratic or Republican caucus.
Ron Paul is doing well among voters who voted in the Democratic primary in 2008. A recent PPP poll of likely Republican caucus voters in Iowa showed that Ron Paul received the strongest support (28 percent) among those who voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008.
The ability of Ron Paul to draw in dissatisfied Republicans and Democrats could be a key difference maker in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and beyond.
Watch out in New Hampshire, where Paul has made a strong plea to encourage Democrats and Independents to register as Republicans so they can vote for him. This plus a bump from a win at the Iowa caucus could pave the way for a victory in the Granite state.
That’s right Republican insiders—Cringe in fear. Hide the children. The Paul campaign may take the first two contests of the 2012 GOP nomination season.
Contact Erik Uliasz at firstname.lastname@example.org