Slowly but surely, the mainstream media is coming to terms with the fact that Ron Paul may very well be Republican voters’ first choice. From the Wall Street Journal:
Ron Paul is the wild card in the Republican presidential deck—and that makes him one of the most important cards of all right now.
It was possible earlier this year to write off the libertarian Texas congressman as an eccentric simply looking, as he did four years ago, for a place on a debate stage to proclaim his gospel of small government and hard money. But now Mr. Paul appears to be the man who could shape the outcome of the Iowa caucuses, which could go a long way toward shaping the overall race.
Nationally, Mr. Paul’s support runs a modest 10% or so in most polls, putting him well behind front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. But in Iowa, four polls in the past couple of weeks have put him at an average of 18%—high enough to compete for second place.
Indeed, to watch Saturday night’s Iowa debate, and hear the audience reaction to Mr. Paul, was to sense how well he is striking chords with voters. A strong Paul performance in Iowa would go a long way toward determining not just the outcome of the Jan. 3 caucuses there, but the path of the crucial phase of the race that immediately follows Iowa…
If Mr. Paul really exceeds expectations in Iowa, that also might set the stage for him to break away from the GOP down the road and mount an independent presidential run. After all, he ran before as a Libertarian Party candidate, in 1988.
“If Paul wins Iowa, which is not out of the question, then you’re going to see a lot of forces [within the Republican Party] try to denigrate him and cut him back,” says Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “Then I could see Paul saying, ‘I’ve been screwed by this party’s establishment, so screw you, I’ll run as an independent.’ ”
There are two particular reasons to take Mr. Paul seriously in Iowa. One is the strange nature of caucuses, and the second is the resonance of his libertarian message in this year of evaporating faith in government…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]