Posted by Jeff
Over the last five months, five non-Romney GOP candidates have taken their turn at the top of the polling in Iowa. The first four–Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich–all have been given certified front-runner status from the media, and all have in turn fallen out of that status. The last one–Ron Paul–has not been given prominence or credibility. He has been dismissed as having a fluky lead that will not translate to national support, and that is so flawed that it could actually discredit the Iowa caucuses‘ standing as a legitimate democratic institution. I argue that, on the contrary, he is the one candidate with the staying power to win Iowa and to take the lead as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
As noted in the piece below (which sets up this piece nicely), Ron Paul has repeatedly broken through the ceilings of support that the pundits have assigned to him, whether 5%, 10% or 20%. Today, he stands in first place in Iowa, and has taken over second place in the latest poll in New Hampshire. According to the pundits, he has once again hit his ceiling.
The more people learned about previous front-runners Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich, the less they liked. Each shot quickly to the front (which indicates that their support was shallow), and each fell because the correlating spotlight brought out their lack of competency, integrity, and consistency. On the other hand, Ron Paul has built up gradual and deep-rooted support, and is begging for the spotlight to shine on his record.
Paul stands by the same principles and the same consistent philosophy he championed when he first entered politics in the 1970s. He was against the Federal Reserve before anyone had ever heard of it, he was against aggressive wars when the people were still blood-thirsty, and he was against the housing bubble before the crash blindsided the rest of the political and economic world. Today, Ron Paul’s message is popular. Yet many of the GOP candidates offer a popular message. The distinction is that even if his weren’t popular, it would be the same message, and his record reflects that. Unlike the other candidates, Paul would benefit greatly from having this history scrutinized and publicized.
The reason Paul continues to break through that ceiling of support is because once his ideas are given deeper consideration, they become increasingly understood and appreciated. It is hard to shake off the establishment-painted image of Ron Paul, the crazy, idealist, over-simplistic, isolationist nut who hates America almost as much as he loves heroin. But when he gets attention it gives him time, and he desperately needs that time to accomplish this task, and to clarify his message. Instead of being laughed off as the economic doomsayer who believes in outdated policies, he can explain exactly how the Austrian economic theory allowed him to predict and understand the recession. Instead of being dismissed as having wild libertarian social policies, he can clarify that as President, he would simply delegate to the states the authority to make laws concerning abortion, gay marriage, drugs, and the like. A Paul administration is currently portrayed as yearning to put meth on Wal-Mart shelves by 2013; a more fitting portrayal is of states legalizing marijuana without armed federal agents storming their dispensaries. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, instead of being seen as an isolationist who blames America for all of the evil in the world, he will be given the opportunity to thoroughly explain his foreign policy views. Americans will see that he has a detailed understanding of Middle Eastern affairs, that he warned that our pre-9/11 military interventionism would lead to terrorist attacks, and that his views on the causes of terrorism are logical and are strongly supportedby the intelligence community. They will see that he is not an isolationist, but rather an advocate of diplomacy and trade, whose unwillingness to recklessly use force throughout the world has earned him more support from active duty military officers than all of the other GOP candidates combined. Nobody has more to gain from the opportunity to convey a public image based on soundbites and stereotypes to an image based on highly-viewed speeches and explanations than Ron Paul, and that is exactly the difference that a win in Iowa could mean.
The idea that Ron Paul’s success will be a fluke, which a favorite dogma of the media, is a myth. Notice that they do not claim that he has cheated, deceived voters, or broken the rules to get to the top. There is nobody doubting that Ron Paul has made it here by winning over hearts and minds. But he doesn’t say what the establishment wants, so he must not belong. Yet how can they claim that the polls don’t matter on the basis that he doesn’t have enough support to win the election? Are they not polling Americans? Sure, he is still in third place nationally, but that’s not where they are about to vote. The fact that he leads in Iowa and New Hampshire more than the rest of the country simply reiterates the point above: it takes time and attention for Ron Paul to garner support. That’s exactly what he will receive if he wins Iowa, where he is leading. Anyway, he is already polling better against Obama than every GOP candidate except Romney. So, to summarize, he is in the top two in the two most important states in the country, in the top three nationally, and is projected as the second most-likely to win the general election, but he is unelectable? I question the soundness of this reasoning.
Ron Paul’s success, instead of leading to his defeat in the blueprint of the four pretenders before him, will perpetuate itself. His gradual rise has been built on an increasing willingness to open up to his views, and as he approaches frontrunner status, more and more Republicans will do the same. As they get past the media image of him, they will find a refreshing blend of consistency, integrity, and strongly-founded positions. The ceilings that have been assigned to Paul will continue to prove no match for his steadily building momentum. If he wins Iowa, it could very well just be the beginning.