Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul typically registers at around ten percent in national polls for the GOP presidential nomination, but surprisingly achieved a statistical tie for first place in a Bloomberg poll of Iowa voters released Tuesday. The result may indicate a path to the nomination for Paul.
“If Paul is going to make a breakthrough, he has to start in Iowa rather than a larger-turnout primary state like New Hampshire,” University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry Sabato told The Daily Caller.
“A caucus state like Iowa is tailor-made to maximize the vote for [a] candidate like Ron Paul,” Sabato said. “He has a dedicated band of supporters who will show up to vote in three feet of snow.”
Sabato said that Paul could win in Iowa and other caucus states “as long as four or five candidates remain strong and in the contest.” He categorized a Paul victory as “possible but somewhat unlikely,” citing the likelihood that Republican voters would not be “easily transferable to Paul because of his distinctive stands on some foreign and domestic policies.”
Pollster John Zogby wrote last week that he “could see Paul gaining support, especially if Cain’s candidacy is blown up by sexual harassment charges.”
Zogby wrote that an October poll, conducted before the Cain allegations surfaced, “found Paul the expected leader among libertarians, but with Cain not far behind,” indicating a bloc that could collectively buoy Paul’s numbers in the event of a Cain collapse.
“He can win in Iowa and will probably stay in the race all the way,” Zogby told TheDC. “But it will be difficult for him to win the nomination because his several of his ideas are just too out of the mainstream of the Republican Party.”
Zogby noted that Paul “benefits from two factors, the first being an increase in the numbers of younger [voters] and intensity of his supporters. The second factor is that anti-government libertarians are running out of candidates to support.”
Bloomberg’s poll of Iowans found that Paul supporters were by far the most committed to their candidate. In the sub-set of voters who had firmly decided who to support, 32 percent supported Paul, 25 percent supported Romney and 17 percent supported Gingrich.
Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain, however, told TheDC that he finds a Paul surge unlikely, even with the public-opinion vacuum created by sexual harassment allegations against Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s well-circulated “oops” gaffe.
McKinnon believes Paul’s 19 percent showing is “an absolute ceiling and he’s hitting it now.” According to McKinnon, “Ron Paul has a very solid base, which are basically all libertarians, but it’s unlikely to grow beyond what he already has.”
Jesse Benton, Paul’s national campaign chairman, said the libertarian favorite may yet break through.
“Our campaign has been steadily building support and the best organization,” Benton told TheDC before the poll results were released. “Dr. Paul will continue climbing the polls, do well in January and surge into Super Tuesday, March 6.”
“Ron Paul is the candidate for anyone who wants to end politics as usual and sincerely tackle our difficult problems,” Benton said, declining to speculate on whether Paul would benefit from troubles facing his rivals. (SEE ALSO: Iowa poll shows four-way GOP tie for first place)
Benton said earlier this month that Paul would need to place third or better in early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire to remain viable. Polls in both states regularly place Paul in third.
“In Iowa, it’s long been a two-person race between Romney and someone else,” said J. Ann Selzer, whose company conducted the poll for Bloomberg. “It is now a four-person race between Romney and three someone elses.”