It seems as though the media/establishment have settled on a common narrative on the GOP’s 2012 race. Some say that Rick Perry, well-funded and finally on his game, could still make a comeback but the conventional wisdom at this point is that it comes down to Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich.
But throwing a monkey wrench into that narrative is Ron Paul, who could very well win in Iowa:
The race for the Republican nomination may have come down to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, but in the contest for the Iowa caucuses, their high-profile battle might still turn out to be a sideshow. Even as the national party prepares to choose between the former speaker and the former Massachusetts governor, Iowa Republicans may end up choosing between Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul.
In every post-Thanksgiving poll but one, Paul has been neck and neck for second place in Iowa. In most of them, he has lagged well behind the soaring speaker, coming in just below 20 percent while Gingrich hovers around 30. But a new Iowa survey, from Public Policy Polling, shows Gingrich leading Paul by just a single point, 22 percent to 21.
Of course, winning Iowa doesn’t mean winning it all. Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 but quickly faded from the race after. That being said, the success of Ron Paul’s campaign this cycle (which has gotten much more traction than his previous runs) is a symptom of conservative dissatisfaction with the “front runner” candidates. I think it also marks a shift to the right in the electorate, and I wonder if Ron Paul weren’t Ron Paul if we’d even be talking about Romney or Gingrich winning.
Rep. Paul comes with a lot of baggage. The perceptions of him, fair or unfair, are mostly written in stone. People who dislike Ron Paul at this point aren’t ever going to like Ron Paul for various reasons. But another candidate campaigning on Paul’s platform (minus, perhaps, his views on foreign policy) would be winning this race.