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How Ron Paul Could Win Iowa Caucuses -- and Screw Up Everything

Should Ron Paul win the first-in-the-nation presidential contest, the pundits will have egg on their faces, and Paul will have an interesting path in front of him.

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According to a poll of millennials released last week by Harvard's Institute of Politics ( via Real Clear Politics' Carl Cannon):

Obama's job performance rating among America's 18- to 29-year-olds is at its lowest point since the IOP began polling on the Obama administration in 2009.

And Ron Paul has a Pied Piper appeal to a certain kind of young person; he seems to warble at a frequency that only they can hear. (There's even a “dragon slayer” video game you can play on your candidate's behalf; slay a dragon, and the game developer contributes $5 to the Paul campaign.)

People looking for an idealistic hero famously latch onto Paul with a messianic fervor, choosing to look past his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which outlawed racial segregation and employment discrimination), his absolutist stance against abortion in any and all circumstances, his links to the John Birch Society, the reams of racist newsletters put out in his name, and his links to the Christian Reconstructionist ideology that aims to bring civil law in line with the law of the Hebrew Bible, where adulterers and gay men are stoned in the public square.

Having built a strong ground operation throughout the state, Ron Paul's elves have not been mourning the reputation of their candidate as he's been dissed by mainstream media; they've been organizing.

Conventional wisdom-peddlers, notes Slate's David Weigel, have been saying that Ron Paul's unconventional foreign policy -- especially his comments about U.S. culpability for inviting Islamist terrorism, or about Iran not posing an existential threat to America in last Thursday's debate -- spell doom in Iowa for Paul. But as Weigel implies with his sly headline, “Was This the Moment That Ron Paul Lost Iowa?”, those remarks may alienate your standard-issue caucus goers, but Ron Paul's caucus-goers will be anything but standard-issue.

As the PPP folks put it:  

Young voters, independents, and folks who haven't voted in caucuses before is an unusual coalition for a Republican candidate...the big question is whether these folks will really come out and vote...if they do, we could be in for a big upset.

A Busy Workshop

At the Ron Paul Heartland Holiday Workshop, they're cranking out more than the yard signs and bumper stickers I'm told are ubiquitous throughout the Hawkeye State.

Down in the workshop basement, the Ron Paul media team has been assembling devastating attack ads [video] against Gingrich -- highlighting the former House speaker's hypocrisy, his ideological inconsistency, his influence-peddling on behalf of Freddie Mac, his prior support for an individual mandate on health insurance (read “Obamacare”), and the common cause he once made with the demon Nancy Pelosi on the topic of (gasp) climate change.

What of Romney, you ask? Why has Paul hardly laid a glove on Mittens? Because, really, Romney doesn't stand in Paul's way. He's not likely to draw from Paul's unconventional voter base, nor is he likely to do well among the majority of regular caucus-goers, who largely hail from evangelical faiths and are disinclined to put their trust in a Mormon such as Romney. And if Iowa voters needed any reminder that Romney is not one of them, Rick Perry has taken care of things on the Mormon-bashing front, allowing Paul to remain above that ugly little fray.

What's It All Mean?

Once Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucuses, he'll have a decent shot at winning the New Hampshire primary. Even if he finishes a close second in Iowa, that will be true. It's just the way momentum works. Ultimately, he won't win the GOP nomination, but that is likely not his aim.

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