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Friday, August 12, 2011

Ron Paul Gaining Steam At 2011 Ames Iowa Straw Poll; Major Threat To Romney & Perry (Videos)

Ron Paul could be a surprise victor in Ames straw poll

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has long been regarded as a somewhat entertaining distraction in his two presidential races over the past four years.

But, on the eve of the Ames Straw Poll, the first major organizing test of the 2012 Republican presidential race, there is a strain of thinking that Paul could seriously challenge the likes of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for supremacy on Saturday.

“He’s got the supporter passion of a Bachmann with the organization of a Pawlenty,” said one senior Iowa Republican strategist unaffiliated with any of the campaigns. “He builds on 2007 and the caucus last time, and I think he can turn out the 3,000 votes he needs to win.”

The idea of a Paul straw poll victory — while beginning to be discussed more openly — is still far from expected.

Pawlenty has gone all out — organizationally and financially — to make his mark at Ames, recognizing that if he can’t win or come in a very close second it could very well spell the end of his campaign.

Bachmann, too, is making a major play at Ames — her Friday schedule is packed with five events designed to rally supporters in advance of the straw poll — and, if polling is to be believed, she looks something close to a frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses next year.

The conventional wisdom on the ground in Iowa is that Paul, Bachmann and Pawlenty will finish in the win, place and show slots — with Bachmann still regarded as the most likely first place finisher.

But, Paul is clearly hoping to make his mark; his campaign paid $31,000 for the prime spot at tomorrow’s straw poll (right outside the Hilton Coliseum where the voting takes place) — the same plot of land that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney staked out in 2007 when he won the straw poll.

Despite that spending, Paul’s campaign team is doing everything they can to lower expectations.

“Michele is pushing full force, Tim Pawlenty has an expensive team of top-drawer consultants and Mitt Romney, the national front runner, is working hard behind the scenes,” said Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton. “We hope to do well, compete with these big names and finish right there with them in the top four.”

Paul’s chances of pulling off an upset are entirely contingent on the number of people of voting. As he has demonstrated by winning a series of straw votes over the past few years, he has a very dedicated group of supporters who would walk over hot coals — maybe literally — for him.

But Paul has also shown — and he did it again in the debate last night — that he has little interest in expanding beyond that base of people. As the electorate gets larger the ability of Paul’s supporters to dominate it recedes. It’s why he didn’t win a single primary or caucus in the 2008 race.

The operative question in assessing Paul’s chances at winning at Ames tomorrow is just how many people will show up.

Virtually no one expects turnout to come near the 1999 Straw Poll when nearly 24,000 people voted thanks to heavy spending by both then Texas Gov. George W. Bush and wealthy businessman Steve Forbes. Bush won the vote that year with 7,418 votes — a massive total that may not be eclipsed for some time to come.

The two more likely voter universe estimates are 2007 and 1995.

In 2007, 14,000 people voted with Romney emerging victorious with 4,516 votes. (Paul finished fifth in that straw ballot with 1,305 votes.)

In 1995, just 10,500 voted as then Sens. Bob Dole (Kans.) and Phil Gramm (Texas) tied for first place by each winning 2,582 votes.

The 3,500 vote difference between overall turnout in 1995 and 2007 may make all the difference in assessing Paul’s chances of winning.

In a 1995 turnout model, 3,000 votes for any one candidate is likely to win it and several smart strategists in the state believe Paul could get to that number. In the 2007 turnout model, though, 3,000 isn’t enough votes to win — although it would likely guarantee Paul a top three finish.

“Turnout under 12,000 favors Ron Paul,” said one veteran GOP straw poll watcher. “Turnout over 14,000 favors Bachmann.”

There is little expectation that a Paul victory at Ames — even if did come to pass — would mean much of anything in the race to come.

Turnout for next year’s caucuses in Iowa could be as much as ten times that of Ames and, as we noted above, Paul struggles in larger electorates. “He won’t win the caucuses or be the nominee, but it will be a recognition that Iowans are looking for someone who will offer bold answers on our fiscal crisis,” said one Iowa Republican strategist.

Rep. Ron Paul Campaigns in Iowa With Son Sen. Rand Paul in Tow

For the first time since Congressman Ron Paul announced in May that he will be running for president, he was joined on the campaign trail by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

The two made four stops across Iowa on Wednesday -- speaking on how a Ron Paul presidency would be beneficial to America.

They started their day in Mason City, Iowa – but ABC News caught up with the father-son duo in Waterloo, Iowa. Ron and Rand Paul spoke to a crowd of about 50 people during a lunchtime meet and greet.

Ron Paul had an optimistic assessment of the current economic condition in America, saying that the financial turmoil is temporary. He then presented proposals for what he would do as president to correct the ship, one of which includes eliminating the capital gains tax.

ABC News asked Congressman Paul about President Obama's view that spending cuts alone can't fix American's long-term deficit situation, and that we need to also look at increasing revenue.

"We need to know what the role of government ought to be -- Obama probably endorses entitlements as rights," said Ron Paul. "We can get there -- we can cut entitlements."

Sen. Rand Paul took the microphone and said: "Democrats have to admit that entitlements and welfare need to be reformed. Social spending needs to go down and Republicans need to admit that military spending needs to go down. They say the Tea Party won't compromise -- we will compromise."

When pressed by ABC News about a long-term deficit deal by this Congress -- Ron Paul says there will be something -- but it will have no meaning.

"It will not reassure the markets -- it will not cause us to have a strong dollar and it will not revive the economy," he said.

At the day's third campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, ABC News asked what he would specifically do on day one of his presidency to create jobs. He pointed out the need to control the regulatory system and the tax code -- but offered no specifics. Rand Paul then took the microphone and offered a clearer articulation of his father's vision, specifically pointing out the need to lower corporate tax rates in America.

At the final campaign stop in Des Moines, ABC News caught up with Rep. Paul and asked him about the one clear difference between him and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has been getting a lot of media attention and, in some polls, is leading Paul.

"I approach this differently than all the other candidates -- Republicans or Democrats," said Paul. "I defend individual liberty in a different way. I am the one that says, 'War -- there is too much of it.' They are undeclared. It's time to end war."

"I am the one that says, 'I'm sick and tired of this Patriot Act -- this pretence to destroy our individual liberties and molest us at the airport.' None of the other candidates are saying that. How many of the other candidates are going to talk about the financial situation and tie it into the reality of the Federal Reserve? Those views are different from other views, and it's my strong defense of liberty that separates me from other candidates."

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Sources: ABC News, AP, Fox News, Politico, Washington Post, Youtube, Google Maps

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