As far as big weeks for campaigns go, this one is huge. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has thrown everything into this race. He has announced he will be retiring from Congress, taking the President or bust approach. But there’s a difference between the Ron Paul of four years ago and the Ron Paul of today. People are realizing now that Ron Paul was right about many of his apocalyptic financial concerns in 2008 and that none of the other Republican candidates come even close to Ron Paul concerning consistency and principles.
But don’t take my word for it. Polling has shown a consistent increase in support for Dr. Paul. Whereas Romney, Bachmann, and Perry all started polling extremely high, not lived up to their hype, and have been losing support or stagnating in polls, Paul has been climbing uphill steadily since June. In 2008, there was no chance Paul would ever cross into double digit support. Throughout July, Paul hovered right below that mark. But yesterday, a new USA Today/Gallup poll of national Republicans had Ron Paul at 14%, now running third behind Romney (24%) and the still undeclared Rick Perry (17%).
Iowa Republican polling is even closer and has witnessed an astonishing increase in support for Paul as he has been campaigning extensively in the Hawkeye State. Throughout June and July, he was bringing in 3-7%. A Rasmussen poll from this weekend has Paul now at 16%, as Bachmann (22%) and Romney’s (21%) support has been dropping.
The debt debate only served to further Ron Paul’s message concerning the dysfunctional nature of Congress and ineffectuality of our President to properly address our country’s financial concerns. This coupled with Paul’s aggressive campaigning in Iowa (after bringing in the second most amount of funding in Q2), has resulted in a surge in the Texas congressman’s numbers. The question now is can Ron Paul keep the momentum going?
His biggest test comes this week. The Ames straw poll at Iowa State University this Saturday will be a challenge. Ron Paul has already been damned by many members of the media. Some say a Paul finish in the top-three proves the irrelevance of straw polls, while others say if he doesn’t finish in the top three, it proves the irrelevance of Paul. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Still probably better if he wins, though. A win, while it might not mean Ron Paul will win Iowa, will signal the strength of his campaign, give his supporters more confidence, and give a kick in the behind to those who have been considering a Ron Paul vote.
This week, though, I think what will much more important is a strong performance from Rep. Paul in the Thursday Fox News debate. It is extremely difficult to make a good impression with seven or eight candidates on stage, but Paul has to take his limited to be honest and coherent with the American people. Coming off the debt debates, Paul is in a great position to let Iowa and the country know where we stood and where he stands now. If he can do that without babbling like he has been prone to in previous debates (and if he can find a suit that fits), I think he has a great chance of coming away from this debate a winner.
Success in Iowa this week could propel Ron Paul far. And the amazing thing is, even though numbers-wise this is not the same Ron Paul we saw in 2008, the man has not changed at all in the last four years. Show me another candidate who can say the same.