The Texas Republican, who has for weeks witnessed a surge in support, is leading the Republican field with 23 percent support.
Mr. Paul is followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 20 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, former Pennsylvania U.S Senator Rick Santorum at 10 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 10 percent, Texas Governor Rick Perry at 10 percent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman at 4 percent.
Ron Paul, the septuagenarian Texas congressman who ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988, is hoping to have the last laugh as he plots what polls indicate could be a surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses on January 3.
Ron Paul took a few quick jabs at his Republican rivals on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Friday. Asked his opinion of Michele Bachmann, who Paul had clashed with earlier in the week over the question of a nuclear Iran, Paul said Bachmann “hates Muslims” and “wants to go get them.”
Mrs Bachmann, who condemned the accusation as an “outrageous statement”, had clashed angrily with Dr Paul in an Iowa debate last week over his insistence that “the greatest danger” was not that Iran would get a nuclear weapon but that “we will have a president that will overreact and we will soon bomb Iran”.
She responded that she had never “heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one that we just heard from Ron Paul”. He hit back that to “declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say all Muslims are the same, this is dangerous talk”.
He also said Romney was a nice guy who maybe should stay in Massachusetts and that Jon Huntsman is “thoughtful.”
Dr Paul, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, has a long-established base of fervent supporters who laud his insistence on strict adherence to the United States constitution, his staunch opposition to foreign intervention and his unyielding views on debt and deficits.
His fundraising, always strong, has increased in the 2012 campaign and he has steadily risen in the polls to third place nationally behind Newt Gingrich, who has surged to the front of the Republican pack but is now slipping, and Mr Romney.
Meanwhile Newt Gingrich’s spotlight seems to be fading, while Romney’s front-runner position remains shaky. This puts Paul in the unique position of surging in the polls just in the nick of time.
If he can break that voter ceiling he might be able to win in Iowa, possibly pushing him into front-runner status across the country, especially if Huntsman hurts Romney and Gingrich in New Hampshire.
A Paul win in Iowa and a Huntsman win in New Hampshire would throw this race into chaos – but a particularly good brand of chaos. Huntsman has been trailing badly for the duration of the race so far, and Paul has been laughed off by much of the press and the conservative intelligentsia.
“Well, and the Ron Paul people aren’t going to like me saying this,” said Chris Wallace of Fox News, “but, to a certain degree, it will discredit the Iowa caucuses because, rightly or wrongly, I think most of the Republican establishment thinks he is not going to end up as the nominee. So, therefore, Iowa won’t count and it will go on.”
“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. 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,” said PPP in a statement. [via The Telegraph, Forbes and The State Column]