GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is not considered to be a top-tier candidate like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, but several polls indicate that the libertarian congressman from Texas might win the Iowa caucus and cause real trouble for the other candidates in the race.
According to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, Paul is ahead of Romney, 23 percent to 20 percent, with Gingrich lagging behind at only 14 percent. The PPP survey credited Paul's well-organized and focused campaign and his rabid support among voters under 45 years old, as well as independents.
While Paul has been rising in the polls, Gingrich has been falling. Despite being praised for his strong debate performances, Iowans appear to becoming wary of the former Speaker of the House, with support dropping from 27 percent to 14 percent over the last two weeks, according to Tom Jensen, director of PPP, USNews.com reported.
Some of the reasons for the differences in support for the two candidates include Paul's dedicated volunteer base who have been active in mobilizing support for quite some time now, whereas Gingrich has not had much of an on-the-ground campaign, leading some experts to believe that there is still a place for “retail politics,” rather than digital-only campaigning, still has a place in today's political process.
"Paul's ascendancy is a sign that perhaps campaigns do matter at least a little, in a year where there has been a lot of discussion about whether they still do in Iowa," Jensen said. "Twenty-two percent of voters think he's run the best campaign in the state compared to only 8 percent for Gingrich and 5 percent for Romney. The only other candidate to hit double digits on that question is Bachmann at 19 percent."
With strong numbers, a devoted base, and enough money to make him competitive against Romney, many commentators are wondering "what if?"
Writing for CNN, John Avlon, senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, called a Paul win in Iowa a 'long shot," but believed it could nonetheless happen, which could put the Texas congressman in a good position to take New Hampshire, as well. This would by no means give Paul the GOP nod, but it would make life a lot more difficult for Romney and Gingrich.
Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway, is more skeptical of Paul's strong poll numbers. The conservative blogger says Paul's strong poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire are a result of independent voters being allowed to participate in the primaries, which is not the case in Florida.
In addition, Mataconis said that even if Paul wins Iowa and New Hampshire, it will be difficult to compete with Romney:
"To put it bluntly, he has no path to victory and lacks the resources to compete with the Mitt Romneys of the world in delegate-rich states like Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Texas, and California, all of whom have closed primaries to begin with. Paul is benefiting right now from the quirky nature of the electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire, but once he gets beyond there he really won’t have anywhere to go."
Despite the lack of confidence some conservative bloggers have in Paul, the candidate announced on his website that he is dropping a $4 million "money bomb" in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, which are all holding early caucuses or primaries, reported USA Today.