Poll: Paul Continues to Surge in Iowa

A new poll shows Rep. Ron Paul continues to significantly surge in Iowa and has taken the lead – raising the real prospect that if trending continues he could be the winner of the Republican Iowa causes which would further add to the media narrative that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can’t close the deal and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is on the quick descent as weighty baggage pulls him down.

Not to mention it would add this factor: even if Paul has come under fire for his ideas and racist newsletters that went out under his name years ago, if he win’s Iowa he could no longer be dismissed by the media as a kind of amusing, political fringe side show. And it will mean the already increasing scrutiny of him will continue to increase:

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, battered former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a Public Policy Polling poll of likely Iowa GOP caucusgoers released late Tuesday. Mr. Paul won the Iowa PPP poll with 24 percent of the votes. Mr. Romney pulled in 20 percent of the votes and Mr. Gingrich garnered 13 percent of the votes.

Approximately one week ago, Mr. Paul surprised political pundits by winning an Iowa PPP poll. In the latest Iowa PPP poll Mr. Paul’s support has risen by 1 percentage point, Mr. Romney’s support has remained steady and Mr. Gingrich’s support has dropped by 1 percentage point. Several weeks ago, Mr. Gingrich seemed poised to win the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd.

And if some of the other candidates who’ve been virtually living in the state don’t do well, they might as well give up the political ghosts. To paraphrase a song, if they can’t do it there they can’t do it anywhere:

Mr. Paul has faced increased media scrutiny over the last several days for his association with a series of racist newsletters that were published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite the media coverage of the issue, Mr. Paul’s support in Iowa does not appear to be impacted as the latest Iowa PPP poll was conducted on December 26th and December 27th.

In the week leading up to Christmas, Mr. Paul won four out of five Iowa polls. Despite Mr. Paul’s poll victories, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee thinks that Mr. Romney will win the Hawkeye State.

“I would probably say that Mitt Romney will end up winning it today,” Mr. Huckabee posited on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”

During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich slammed Mr. Paul’s chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination.

“He’s not going to get the nomination. It won’t happen,” Mr. Gingrich told Mr. Blitzer. Mr. Gingrich added that “he’s got to come up with some very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously.”

However, other poll watchers have a different view of Mr. Paul’s chances.

The GOP race continues to be something of a big, fat mess (if winning an election is the ultimate goal).

Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard is pleading for some Republican, any reasonable, mainstream Republican with conscience and heart to leap into the race.

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is pleading — for at least the third time — for someone better to get in the Republican presidential primary at the last minute and save the party from the current candidates. Kristol tries to guilt trip the guys who’ve decided to stay out of the race this year — Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christe aren’t mentioned by name, but they’ve all been subject of his admiration — into changing their mind by calling them fair weather Americans. He doesn’t ask why the Republican field has been dominated by flawed candidates this year, but if he ever gets curious, he can look to himself. It was Kristol’s most famous political crush, Sarah Palin, who taught conservative voters that it’s okay to support candidates who have little experience, not know all that much about foreign policy, have a soapy personal life, say outrageous things, and even have trouble speaking complete sentences.

The prominent Republican-oriented blog Powerline argues the time of dithering is dangerously past and endorses Mitt Romney — not just making a lesser of two evils argument but an affirmative argument that Romney could also be a great President.

Throw into this context a Paul win in Iowa and you have a political monkey wrench.

The racist newsletters that went out under his name haven’t hurt Paul in Iowa, but they have hurt his “brand name.” His foes can point to them and cartoonists and comedians can most assuredly have fun with them:

UPDATE: The Politico notes that Romney is within striking distance:

Don’t look now, but Mitt Romney suddenly seems like the Iowa front-runner.

The former Massachusetts governor has carefully tempered expectations in Iowa all year, visiting only a handful of times and saving the bulk of his television spending for the final weeks of the race. But as a crowd of conservative opponents keep the anti-Romney vote divided, his odds of a victory in the state that humbled him four years ago have never been better.

Even as he tried to keep talk about his prospects in check Tuesday, a slew of public and private polling and anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that Romney is within striking distance of a first-place finish in Iowa — especially as Ron Paul’s momentum spurt appears to have run into the reality of front-runners’ scrutiny.

Romney’s team is moving to make the most of it. The candidate launched a bus tour Tuesday and suggested on a conference call with Iowans this week that he’ll be in the state for New Year’s Eve. After a solid ad buy in Iowa for a month totaling more than $1.1 million, Romney’s camp has upped its spending in the Quad Cities market, sources familiar with the purchase told POLITICO. His team has dropped a collection of mail pieces, both positive about Romney and negative about the perceived closest alternative — Newt Gingrich.

In another clear sign he’s playing to win, he has quietly moved a handful of staffers from his headquarters in Boston and in other states earlier this month to give his skeleton Iowa staff a needed boost. And he’s cycling in a platoon of high-profile surrogates to rally around him in the state at stump stops and on talk radio, including Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Aaron Schock and former Sens. Norm Coleman and Jim Talent.

Among Romney’s Iowa backers, there was a marked rise in confidence Tuesday.