Paul Gets Front-runner's Welcome in Iowa

By: David Espo, Associated Press
By: David Espo, Associated Press

Newton, IA (AP) - Texas Rep. Ron Paul received a welcome befitting a man with a suddenly serious chance to win next week's Iowa Republican presidential caucuses as he arrived in the state Wednesday for a final burst of campaigning.

His rivals attacked him, one by one.

If the 76-year-old libertarian-leaning conservative was bothered, he didn't let it show. He unleashed a television commercial that hit Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. In his remarks, he lumped all his rivals into one unappealing category.

"There's a lot of status quo politicians out there," Paul told a crowd of a few dozen potential caucus-goers who turned out to hear him on the grounds of the Iowa Speedway. "If you pick another status quo politician nothing's going to change."

The audience applauded, but by day's end, it appeared that yet another contender might be rising.

According to public and private polls, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is gaining ground in the final days of the race, yet another unpredictable turn in a fast-changing caucus campaign. "We have the momentum," he proclaimed.

The politicking was unending.

Two politically active pastors in Iowa's robust evangelical conservative movement disclosed an effort to persuade either Santorum or Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota to quit the race and endorse the other.

"Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact," said Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister and a leader among Iowa's social conservatives.

There was no sign either contender was interested.

For months, Romney has remained near or at the top of public opinion surveys in Iowa, as Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rose briefly to challenge him.

Romney has bent without breaking in the face of each challenge, benefitting from his own well-funded campaign, attack advertisements funded by deep-pocketed allies and the missteps of his challengers.

Paul's surge represents the latest threat, and in some respects, the unlikeliest, coming from a man whose views on abortion, the war in Iraq, Iran and other issues are at odds with those of most Republicans.

At the same time, his anti-government appeal appears to tap into the desire of a frustrated electorate for profound change in an era of high unemployment and an economy that has only slowly recovered from the recession.

"In the last couple of weeks I fell into Ron Paul's camp," said Bob Colby, of Newton, who spent 21 years in the military and is a former employee at a now-shuttered Maytag plant in town.

"I threw my hands up" in frustration, said Colby, who added that he supported Romney in the 2008 caucuses and chose Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama that fall.

In his remarks, Paul drew applause when he said, "I want to cut $1 trillion out of the budget the first year," and eliminate deficits in three.

"The debt is unsustainable once it reaches a certain point," he said. "My whole effort is to face up to it."

Paul strongly suggested the United States withdraw its troops from Asia, and drew laughter from the audience when he noted Obama's recent announcement that Marines would be deployed to Australia.

"How long do we have to stay in Korea? We've been there since I was in high school," he said, making no mention of the recent death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the resulting uncertainty about the nuclear-armed nation.

Nor did Paul refer in his remarks to his recent statement in a campaign debate that he would not consider pre-emptive military action to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His campaign released an ad that showed pictures of Romney and Gingrich as the narrator said "serial hypocrites and flip-floppers can't clear up the mess" in Washington. "Paul's the one we've been looking for."

His rivals weren't nearly as reticent about discussing a nuclear Iran.

"You don't have to vote for a candidate who will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Because America will be next. I mean, I'm here to say: You have a choice," Perry told an early morning audience near Des Moines.

"I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that the commander in chief would think it was irrelevant to have an Iranian nuclear weapon," said Gingrich.

The former speaker has said he could not support Paul in a general election campaign, a position that Romney and Santorum disagreed with during the day.

Even so, Romney also took a poke at Paul. "One of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't," he said in response to a question from a potential caucus-goer in Muscatine.

Santorum attacked from a different angle.

Acknowledging widespread voter anger in an age of high unemployment, he said: "If you want to stick it to the man, don't vote for Ron Paul. That's not sticking it to anybody but the Republican Party."

In a campaign that began months ago, Santorum stands out as the only contender who has not experienced a surge in the statewide public opinion polls. There was a hint during the day in a CNN survey as well as private polls that he might be peaking at exactly the right moment.

"We're very, very happy with the new numbers," he told reporters in Dubuque. "We're seeing our numbers go up in a lot of polls."

He's told his recent audiences that he faces the challenge of persuading Iowa Republicans that he has a chance to win.

Santorum has campaigned extensively in the state, spending parts of more than 250 days and stopping in each of Iowa's 99 counties.

Yet he has been low on funds, and while Romney, Perry and Paul have been advertising on television for weeks, Santorum began only recently.


Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont, Brian Bakst, Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy, Mike Glover, Kasie Hunt and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.

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  • by Steve Location: Florida native/resident on Dec 29, 2011 at 10:08 AM
    This blog is for "Woody Location: Tallahassee on Dec 29, 2011 at 08:32 AM"...Can you speak English? I suppose because you have an advanced knowledge of the Romans and (the proper usage of this pronoun would be either Brit's, or Britons)world history. Woody, before you cause widespread insanity, I will require you to site your source for your comment:(BTW-Ron Paul has more donations from active military than all other candidates AND Obama combined, I'd take their word over an average citizen...)Have you seen any wierd lights in the sky lately? I know this hoodrat is a psychopath! Maybe you can explain to me how the Massad brought down the towers, without even a beat cop in New York, or the CIA knowing? Punk! Thousands killed! This hoodrat is a punk, and flying saucers are in his crazy future! Suck it up! You are now a part of the "fringe" and now just a holler and a laugh away from the loony bin! Thanx.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 29, 2011 at 05:40 AM
    Ron Paul should be locked up in a padded cell.
  • by Woody Location: Tallahassee on Dec 29, 2011 at 05:32 AM
    Yessir! Ron Paul 2012!!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 29, 2011 at 06:44 AM in reply to Woody
      And you are nuts sir!
      • reply
        by Woody on Dec 29, 2011 at 08:28 AM in reply to
        Actually, policing the world and instilling hatred across the globe is nuts, considering the history of previous empires. Didn't end well for the Romans and British. (BTW-Ron Paul has more donations from active military than all the other candidates AND Obama combined, I'd take their word over an average citizen) Devaluing our dollar daily by printing trillions in order to bail out big banks who gave out irresponsible loans is nuts. Allowing the TSA to grope little children and the elderly just to get on a plane is nuts. Passing a "national defense" bill that can detain an American citizen for any reason for an indefinite amount of time is nuts. (Bye 4th amendment) Oh that's right, we've all learned to accept everything I've just mentioned. Let's just focus on the next iPhone to come out. Just keep watching Fox News, everything's fine :)
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Dec 29, 2011 at 09:08 AM in reply to Woody
          Being an anti-semite and a racist is nuts. Denying the fact that Iran is a threat is nuts. Legalizing drugs is nuts. Praising occupiers is nuts. Being an anarchist isolationist is nuts. Wishing Israel not existing is nuts. Not "risking American lives" to end the holocaust is nuts. Think Bradley manning is a hero is nuts. Offering amnesty to aliens is nuts. Voting for this loon is nuts. He's splitting the GOP vote as a liberatarian and will leave us with another 4 year of Obummer.
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