A surging Ron Paul may not need to entertain third party bid

Having long been ignored by the mainstream media, Ron Paul’s campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination appears to be surging in Iowa, just three weeks ahead of the state’s 2012 caucuses on January 3rd.  Indeed, some polls are now placing the Texas Congressman in a statistical tie with the race’s most recent front-runner, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Here’s a quick recap, for those who may not be up to speed on the minutia of the Republican party’s primary race.  For the last six months, one GOP hopeful after another has risen and fallen in the polls as the potential alternative to Mitt Romney, who appears to have been anointed to the position of default front-runner in the race by the political and media establishment some time ago.

Michelle Bachmann’s success at the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, in which she scored a narrow victory over Ron Paul, propelled her to the front of the pack in August.  She was soon eclipsed, however, when Texas governor Rick Perry entered the fray.  After a number of poor debate performances on Perry’s part, pizza magnate Herman Cain soon jumped to the top of the heap, but stepped down, and then out, following allegations of sexual misconduct and rumors of an extra-marital affair from a number of sources.  Ironically, it was none other than Newt Gingrich, notorious for his serial adultery, who then surged to the front of the race.

Gingrich’s status as front-runner quickly polarized the conservative Republican media establishment.  As Rush Limbaugh complained last week: “no matter where you look in the Republican establishment media today, there looks to be a coordinated attack on Mr. Newt.”  Limbaugh went so far as to assert that there is effectively no conservative media today:

“the conservative movement is made up of me, talk radio, the Tea Party and the American people who are conservative. But a conservative movement made up of movement media people, there hasn’t been that since Mr. Buckley passed away. I really don’t believe so.”

Since then, the chorus of attacks against Newt’s candidacy has only grown louder, especially on conservative talk radio, and this appears to have begun to benefit Ron Paul.  Michael Savage publicly offered Gingrich $1 million to step out of the race.  Glenn Beck has denounced Gingrich as a “progressive” and stated that if given a choice between President Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee, and Ron Paul as a third party candidate, he would cast his ballot for Ron Paul, despite vehement disagreement with Paul’s foreign policy.  The next day, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough echoed Beck’s sentiment, stating:

“if I have to choose between Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich . . . who is the opposite of being a small-government conservative — if Ron Paul’s running as a third-party candidate, I’m going to give him a long look. Because I can’t vote for the two guys who worship at the altar of big government in their own separate ways. And that’s the problem with a Newt Gingrich candidacy. He’s not a small government conservative.”

There are likely few things that strike more fear into the hearts of Republican and Democratic political strategists than the threat of a third party protest vote, especially when it is trumpeted in the mainstream media.  And there are few die-hard Republicans who would likely consider casting a ballot for a third party candidate over just staying home.  But the threat itself, in favor of Ron Paul, may well provide yet another boost to his candidacy.

For his part, Paul has stated that he does not intend to seek a third party or Independent path to the presidency.  And he may not have to.  Paul is now in a statistical tie with Gingrich among likely Republican voters in Iowa, according to a survey released yesterday by Public Policy Polling.

“Gingrich is at 22%, to 21% for Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%. . . . Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he’s also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers . . . Paul meanwhile has seen a big increase in his popularity,” reported PPP.

Given PPP’s known Democratic party leanings, one might reasonably question their results.  However, American Research Group (ARG), a New Hampshire-based polling outfit, also finds Paul steadily gaining strength in the Hawkeye State.  ARG’s most recent survey places Ron Paul in a tie for second place with Mitt Romney among likely Republican caucus goers, trailing Newt Gingrich by just five percentage points.

Paul’s principled stances against the corporate welfare and global warfare state, as well as his strong defense of civil liberties, do not sit well with many influential big government, big business conservatives in the Republican party.  However, they invigorate his well-organized activist base, like that in Iowa, as demonstrated by his strong showing in the Ames Straw Poll in August.

The mainstream and corporate media have now begun to cease ignoring Paul’s campaign.  Indeed, it appears they can’t ignore him any longer.  As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer wrote yesterday:

“The key to success in Iowa is to persuade your supporters to show up. That means helping them drive to the meetings if necessary. Paul has that kind of team in place. From what I hear from well-placed sources in Iowa, neither Gingrich nor Romney has it in place yet.”