Texas Republican Ron Paul, who finished a strong second behind Michele Bachmann in the Iowa Straw Poll earlier this month, has now leapt over her in a recent Gallup poll. According to the poll released on Wednesday, Paul is now in third place, behind Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor and former front-runner, Mitt Romney. Bachmann is in fourth place.
Perry captured 29 percent of the vote with Romney at 17, Paul at 13 and Bachmann with 10 percent. None of the other candidates came in above 4 percent.
What political pundits are wanting to know is if Paul’s recent surge is a sign that mainstream Republicans are starting to take notice of his candidacy or if they are simply dissatisfied with the other contenders. The latter doesn’t seem to be the case according to an Associated Press-GfK poll saying that two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are pleased with the field of candidates seeking the GOP nomination.
So, Paul is now a mainstream candidate, right?
Not hardly. Paul has run against the grain of the GOP platform for many years and has been quoted as saying the mainstream “is frightened by me challenging the status quo and the establishment.”
Atlanta businessman and presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, shares a similar sentiment.
“The mainstream media, as you know, they’ve tied to narrow this down to just what they call the top tier of…three people at the top, and it’s not like that,” Cain said on Fox News.
In addition to his poll numbers, Paul’s campaign account is growing too. He raised just under $2 million in a 24 hour period last weekend in what was described as an online “money bomb.” It was the fourth time Paul had raised in excess of $1 million since he declared for the 2012 race.
Southern Methodist University political science professor Dennis Simon told the Winnipeg Free Press, “He’s resonating, there’s no question.”
Paul has built his reputation and platform for the most part as a fiscal conservative – an aggressive hawk of sorts who supports a balanced budget amendment and America going back to a true gold standard. However, Paul veers off the reservation at times, for example, in co-sponsoring legislation with ultra liberal Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that would allow states to implement their own laws in regards to marijuana. While some might see this as a pragmatic, reasonable approach, the bill stands little chance of passing. In addition, some find it interesting Paul is quiet on the hot button issues of pornography, prostitution and harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Besides his fiscal positions, Paul’s campaign knows they must attract evangelical voters if they expect to move any further in the polls.
The Texas congressman does consider himself a pro-life candidate. “As an OB doctor, let me tell you, life does begin at conception,” Paul said at the Faith and Freedom conference in June.
Paul opposes most military conflicts that the U.S. has found itself in, preferring to limit America’s military action to the pure defense of our borders and the protection of innocent lives.
But the jury is still out on the issue of Paul attracting mainstream, or better yet, main street Republicans. Paul’s supporters are much younger than the 76-year-old Congressman. In fact, the one area that Paul does lead in is with voters in the 18- to 20-year-old category. He finished well behind the other three candidates with voters 65 and over. The older the voter, the more Paul’s support begins to drop.
Despite his young voter advantage, Simon and other analysis don’t believe Paul will win the GOP nomination. “I think that he’s got an upper limit and he’s approaching it,” said Simon.
Time and the ability to attract real mainstream voters will tell.