Despite being ignored after his strong showing at the Ames Iowa Straw poll, getting a measly 90 seconds to speak during an hour-long CBS News debate, and receiving the least amount of media coverage throughout the Republican Primary of any GOP candidate in the Pew Research Center's study entitled "The Media Primary," Ron Paul's campaign has persevered and the Texas Congressman has now taken a firm lead in Iowa according to the latest poll, with 23% of likely caucus goers saying they support Ron Paul for the Republican nomination.
The heavy media opposition has not deterred the Paul campaign, which appears to be outworking every other campaign in Iowa with an aggressive ground game. According to the poll cited above, "22% of voters think he's run the best campaign in the state compared to only 8% for Gingrich and 5% for Romney." In addition to running a solid game on the ground, Ron Paul has swept into first place in Iowa seemingly because of an independent message that is resonating with Iowa caucus goers, especially Independents. Ron Paul leads among the one fourth of likely Iowa Caucus voters who identify themselves as either Democrats or Independents, with 35% of their support as compared to Mitt Romney's 14%.
And Iowa isn't the only place where Ron Paul's campaign is building some major momentum. In New Hampshire, Ron Paul is in second place with 19% and nationally, Ron Paul is polling at 3rd place with 14%, a position that could improve to second place if Newt Gingrich's campaign continues its free fall due to heavy criticism of his status as a 'Washington-insider'. In a primary season that has seen its fair share of exciting, narrative-setting "front-runners" come and go-- from Donald Trump, to Michele Bachmann, to Rick Perry, to Herman Cain, to Newt Gingrich-- the Ron Paul moment might be arriving just in time for the first primaries to begin. Ignoring Ron Paul for so long, as the aforementioned Pew study proved the media was doing, might just end up having helped Ron Paul because of the timing of his rise.
But now that the media is done ignoring Ron Paul, they appear to be primed to attack and marginalize him as his campaign positions itself for a win in Iowa. Over the weekend, Tim Carney made the following prediction:
'The Republican presidential primary has become a bit feisty, but it will get downright ugly if Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucuses. The principled, antiwar, Constitution-obeying, Fed-hating, libertarian Republican congressman from Texas stands firmly outside the bounds of permissible dissent as drawn by either the Republican establishment or the mainstream media... If Paul wins, how will the media and the GOP react? Much of the media will ignore him (expect headlines like "Romney Beats out Gingrich for Second Place in Iowa"). Some in the Republican establishment and the conservative media will panic. Others will calmly move to crush him, with the full cooperation of the liberal mainstream media.'
No sooner had these words been published than we began seeing them come true. In a piece actually entitled, "Will Ron Paul kill the caucuses?" The Politico reported that "Republican elites" throughout the state of Iowa are already pondering how to prevent Ron Paul from winning, which would be viewed as doing "irreparable harm" to Iowa as a credible early voting state:
'Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses... Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.'
But the real question is: Will the mainstream media and Republican establishment kill the caucuses? Will they throw a wrench in our democratic process and squash the voices of Iowa caucus voters who may dissent from their narrow pick of 'acceptable' candidates? Will Iowa voters allow themselves to be threatened with political obscurity if they dare pick the candidate whom they like the best?
We'll find out soon enough.