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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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I expect that soon after Super Tuesday, after having accumulated enough delegates to be something of a power broker going into the Republican National Convention, Ron Paul will get out of the race. He could play a game such as that played by Pat Buchanan in 1996, where he threatens to dramatically walk his delegates out of the convention until he gets control of the GOP platform, leaving the Republican presidential nominee to run on an agenda that calls for the end of the Fed and Social Security, and to implement the gold standard for currency. Or, he might just begin a third-party run even before the convention begins.

In 2008, after dropping out of the GOP presidential contest (following a fifth-place finish in Iowa), Paul did not go on to endorse John McCain. Instead, he backed Chuck Baldwin, nominee of the Constitution Party, which despite its secular name, is the political wing of the Christian Reconstructionist movement.

As third parties go, the Constitution Party is impressive, having climbed momentous hurdles to appear on the ballot in 37 states in 2008. In 2010, it achieved major party status in Colorado, thanks to the gubernatorial bid of former congressman and anti-immigrant crank Tom Tancredo.

At last week's Iowa debate, when asked if he would endorse the GOP nominee, Ron Paul dodged the question. I expect he will again endorse the Constitution Party's nominee -- especially if it's him.

While a third-party run by any of its early primary winners could cause problems for the Republican Party, if Paul is the third-party standard bearer, it's a circumstance that could prove vexing as well to the Obama campaign, siphoning off the most enthusiastic sort of young voters that Barack Obama relied on for his 2008 triumph. And in 2012, Obama will need every vote he can muster.  

For Ron Paul, this may just be the perfect holiday season -- one that delivers, before next Thanksgiving, a GOP pushed even further to his America-first, anti-government, Christianist agenda, while delivering a mighty blow to a despised Democratic foe. As Will Ferrell, in a postmodern cinematic holiday classic, said of the malevolent imp, Miles Finch, “He’s an angry elf.”

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan

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