- (REUTERS/Jim Young)
Ron Paul’s impressive second place finish in Saturday's Iowa straw poll is giving the Texas Congressman a jump on his ride to the top of the GOP field with a renewed emphasis on his pro-life convictions and his timely message about limited government.
With 4,621 votes, Paul overpowered several of the more "mainstream" candidates such as social conservatives Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum in the popular Iowa political event. Paul even outpaced GOP leader Mitt Romney in the voting. However, Romney chose not to officially compete in this year’s poll.
Following his respectable finish, his campaign issued a statement thanking Iowans for what they called a "dominant and historic performance."
"This surging movement toward liberty represents a vast network of everyday Americans fed up with the status quo – and we continue to overcome that status quo through an undaunted spirit and sheer numbers," wrote Jack Hunter, Paul's official campaign blogger.
Paul's Iowa poll placement is historic given the fact that just four years ago the Texas Libertarian was a long shot in the 2008 race for the GOP presidential nomination.
He continually came in a distant third in the Super Tuesday primary races despite having a strong online presence. Paul garnered only 35 delegates compared to Romney's 278 delegates and eventual nominee Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 1,575 delegates. Paul later dropped out of the race in June of 2008.
However, Paul's message of limited government has gained traction among Republicans who believe government regulation and entitlements are hurting the U.S. job market and sinking the American economy.
What makes Paul stand out in this year’s field is that he holds firmly to what are known as “Libertarian” beliefs.
The Libertarian Party heralds personal freedom over government control. This view matches with that of fiscal and social conservatives who believe individuals and states should be allowed to impart charity and define marriage without government intrusion.
But Libertarians' support for state-legalization of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal substances turned the party into a fringe group – especially during the 2008 presidential race when Paul was a GOP nominee.
Libertarians and other conservative third-party groups find it difficult, if not impossible, to win national offices against the two dominant parties. Therefore, their candidates typically run on the Republican ticket.
Earlier this year, Paul co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) – another politician who at times makes his party nervous – that would allow states to legalize marijuana. The bill will likely never come to a vote as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives.
He is also getting a boost from social conservatives who are staunchly pro-life and are determined to end government funding for abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
Paul told evangelicals at the June 3rd Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, "As an OB [Obstetrician] doctor, let me tell you, life does begin at conception."
In Iowa, Paul again proclaimed, "The prime reason that government exists in a free society is to protect liberty, but also to protect life. And I mean all life."
He also signed a pro-life pledge.
In return, organizations such as Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List are utilizing its manpower to rally social conservatives to his side and the sides of the other five candidates who are also openly pro-life. The group took to the road with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), rallying Iowans to support one of its six confirmed pro-life candidates.
Of the candidates who signed SBA List's pro-life pledge, only Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Paul held strong voter support in national Gallup polls and thereby benefited from the campaign boost.
Bachmann, who follows Romney and newcomer Rick Perry in national polls with 11 percent GOP support, was first place in the Ames Straw Poll. Paul, who is fourth in the polls, was a close second in Ames. Bachmann received 4,823 votes, just 202 votes more than Paul.
Candidates Newt Gingrich, Sanctorum, Pawlenty, and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) all held less than five percent of Republican ballot support.
Pawlenty, who fought to raise his ranking, placed a distant third in Ames with 2,293 votes. As a result of not being able to find a way to distinguish himself from the crowded field, he dropped out of the race Sunday.
Support of pro-life issues is important to those who tend to vote in GOP primaries.
Additionally, Gallup national surveys show that 51 percent of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong. A majority of Republicans and Democrats both support abortion laws mandating informed consent and parental consent and ban partial birth abortion.
Also, 84 percent of Democratic respondents and 95 percent of Republican respondents favor informed consent laws requiring doctors to tell possible patients about the probable risks before performing an abortion procedure.
More than seven in 10 Americans (71 percent), regardless political affiliation, favor requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents (64 percent) also favor making partial birth abortion illegal.