Ron Paul may be the contrarian in the Republican presidential field, but his conventional approach to the Iowa caucuses makes him the candidate to beat on Jan. 3.
That's because Mr. Paul is the one candidate who has put in the legwork over the long haul that pays dividends in a caucus state where organizational strength reigns supreme. Mr. Paul's acolytes have spent years tilling the soil for his return to the presidential race by educating Iowans on issues such as sound money and the Federal Reserve. I know because I'm one of the Iowans who has benefited from this education. Mr. Paul's Iowa campaign chairman spent six months on my statewide radio show doing a weekly book study on W. Cleon Skousen's "The 5,000 Year Leap."
Much of Mr. Paul's campaign apparatus is also tied to National Right to Work, one of the most effective right-of-center issue-advocacy organizations in the country. National Right to Work set up shop in Iowa for years because Democrats in state government were threatening the state's right-to-work law. The organization created by National Right to Work helped elect several staunch conservatives to the Iowa legislature, and that organization is aiding Mr. Paul's presidential quest.
Mr. Paul may be the best-organized politician in Iowa other than Sen. Tom Harkin and Sen. Chuck Grassley. Mr. Paul has more people loyal to him on the Republican State Central Committee than Gov. Terry Branstad does. Many Iowa political observers think the ultimate goal of these organizational efforts is to lay the foundation for his son Rand to run for president one day. If so, Rand Paul will have a leg up on the rest of his fellow GOP future stars.
Ron Paul may violate Republican Party orthodoxy when it comes to his ideas, but politically he's right in line with what all the experts say it takes to win Iowa. As a result, he is the only GOP candidate in the state who has an enthusiastic base of support that will vote for him no matter what, to go along with an exemplary organization.
Having Mr. Paul break well into the double digits in mainstream media polling is also very bad news for his campaign rivals. That's because if conservatives are suspicious of the mainstream media in general, Mr. Paul's supporters are beyond paranoid. They're the least likely to respond to mainstream media queries or traditional polling mechanisms. That means his support could be underreported.
The confidence of the Paul campaign can be seen in his latest television ad, a macho attempt to go for the close whose memorable last line is, "Want to drain the swamp?" Given his organizational strength and the fracturing of the social-conservative base, Mr. Paul is the favorite to win the Iowa caucuses.
Here's where the other candidates stand organizationally in the final days:
With chairmen in 91 of Iowa's 99 counties, the Minnesota congresswoman boasts the second-best organization in the state. However, given that she beat Mr. Paul in the hotly contested Iowa Straw Poll this summer, she should be in even better shape. Mrs. Bachmann definitely is in position organizationally to outperform her polling numbers.
His organization has largely been based in rural locations, but with the recent additions of some of Mike Huckabee's central Iowa base of support to go along with the endorsement of popular Secretary of State Matt Schultz, the possibility exists for the long-awaited Santorum surge finally to occur if he can procure a major endorsement like one from Rep. Steve King, former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats or Mr. Huckabee.
Mr. Romney's organization is largely revenue to buy advertising and the mercenary political hack class. He's nowhere near as strong organizationally as he was four years ago. The mainstream media keeps asking me about Mr. Romney exploiting the split in the social-conservative base. They're asking the right question, but they have the wrong candidate. It is Mr. Paul who is in the best position to exploit that opening.
For a while, Mr. Perry and Herman Cain were the only candidates running network TV spots in Iowa, and Mr. Perry's latest one, titled "Strong," finally is generating some positive buzz (as well as criticism from all the right people) for his campaign. A lot of his organization was once with Tim Pawlenty, and we saw how that turned out.
Mr. Gingrich is behind everyone else, but his surging polling numbers are helping him catch up. Mr. Gingrich has star power, so he can organically produce positive and negative reaction from the voters all by himself. Therefore, he doesn't need the ground game the other candidates do, but he still needs a better one then he has in order to mobilize his poll numbers into people going to the polls on Jan. 3.
Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated radio host with the Salem Radio Network. He lives in Iowa, where he used to broadcast the afternoon drive program on 1040-WHO. He is co-author of "We Won't Get Fooled Again: Where the Christian Right Went Wrong and How to Make America Right Again" (JAJ Publishing, 2011).
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