Polls show Ron Paul emerging as key player in 2012 race

[/caption]

A new poll finds that a third-party bid by presidential hopeful Ron Paul would help re-elect president Obama, but not before taking away 9% of the President’s independent support and 17% of independent voters from Romney. In a separate poll, Paul was found to be competitive against Obama in a head-to-head contest as the GOP nominee.

In a hypothetical three-way race, the Pew Research Center found that Obama would garner support from 44% of registered voters, Mitt Romney would get 32% support, and the Congressman from Texas would receive 18% of the vote.  Paul has repeatedly denied any intention to run on a third-party ticket if he falls short of the GOP nomination. When pressed on why he won’t completely shut the door on a third-party option, Paul has responded by saying he doesn’t like to speak in absolutes.

Some pundits have pointed out the error in assuming that Paul has nothing to lose by running outside the GOP. The biggest factor keeping his eyes on the nomination prize could be a latent sense that if Paul fails to obtain the nomination in Tampa, his son – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – would have to take up the torch of the growing “liberty movement.” Keeping Paul’s emerging conservative coalitions intact would probably not be possible if Paul-the-elder betrays a chance for GOP victory in November.

If Paul wants to permanently hitch his horse to the GOP wagon, then he has plenty of reasons to feel good about his chances of snagging enough delegates in smaller primary states to make himself more than a thorn in front-runner Romney’s side. There is potential for his youthful base to become enough of a political force to leave the GOP with little choice but inclusion. Ron’s surprisingly robust grassroots support, which led to strong third and second place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively, has lent credence to the idea that the Paul campaign can and will put boots on the ground through Super Tuesday, wherever necessary.

Further diluting Romney’s “clear frontrunner” image have been several polls that show Paul has enough support from independents to hold his own against Obama if he gets the nomination. The latest, a CNN/ORC International poll, has Paul and Romney in a statistical dead heat when matched against Obama. If the President were to compete against Romney, the poll shows Obama at a slight disadvantage (48%-47%).  In a two-way race against Paul, Obama squeaks by with a slim 48%-46% victory (within the poll’s margin of error). The President would easily beat all other Republican candidates, the poll shows.

In the Pew survey, President Obama bested Romney 50% to 45% in a two-way race. Paul and Obama were not compared in that poll.