Presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul, fresh off a new Iowa poll that has him pulling ahead of Mitt Romney for second place among GOP voters in Iowa, said Sunday that he is confident he can catch Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich - and that he can beat President Obama.
The latest Des Moines Register poll of likely GOP voters in Iowa released over the weekend has Mr. Gingrich at 25 percent, Mr. Paul at 18 percent and Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, at 16 percent.
“Of course it is very encouraging because we’re getting pretty close to it being within the margin of error,” Mr. Paul said. “So, I think we continue to do what we’re doing.”
Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who has surged to the front of the GOP field as rivals Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann have fallen back, was polling in the single digits in the same poll a month earlier.
But Mr. Paul, who has wooed Iowa Republicans as ardently as any of the candidates, also has surged: He’s up six points in the past month.
“Go out and do a poll just on independents and put my name up against Obama. All of a sudden the disenfranchised and the people from the left who are upset with the constant wars and the attack on our civil liberties, they’re really down on the president. And they’re down on the economy. So I would bet you we get a completely different result,” Mr. Paul told “State of the Nation” host Candy Crowley.
“I would say that if the people in Iowa wouldn’t consider me a good option to beat Obama I wouldn’t be a close second in there,” he said.
Mr. Paul also reiterated his criticism of billionaire Donald Trump, the New York real estate developer who has started a war of words with the Texas congressman after former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mr. Paul declined to participate in a Dec. 27 GOP debate in Iowa moderated by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump responded to the rejection by calling Mr. Paul a “clownlike candidate.”
“He probably doesn’t like my position on the Federal Reserve,” Mr. Paul said of Mr. Trump. “His personality doesn’t like to be challenged.”
“I don’t understand the marching to his office. I mean, I didn’t know that he had an ability to lay on hands, you know, and anoint people,” Mr. Paul said.
“The selection of a reality-television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the presidency,” Mr. Paul’s campaign chairman Jesse Benton said over the weekend.