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Ron Paul's strength in Iowa shows it's too soon to write him off

Though he has a large and loyal following, Ron Paul's positions on key issues sets him apart from many Republicans. But he keeps moving steadily toward a position of strength in the early voting – especially in Iowa.

By Staff writer / November 20, 2011

Republican Presidential hopeful Texas Rep. Ron Paul answers questions during a campaign event Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa, Iowa.

Brian Ray/The Gazette/AP

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To most pollsters and pundits, any mention of Ron Paul typically comes with an implied asterisk. Whether they say it outright or not, they don’t think the Texas congressman has a chance of being the GOP presidential nominee. Too far outside mainstream, tea party, or born-again socially conservative Republicanism, they say. More libertarian than anything else.

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And yet Rep. Paul soldiers on, and you know what? As other candidates – Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain – dash forward hare-like only to stumble or be run over by the next new thing, Paul is the perpetual tortoise in the race, mild-mannered, confident and unwavering in his positions (no flip-flopper he), advancing steadily toward the first real test in the Iowa caucuses six weeks from now.

Consider these recent headlines:

“Ron Paul is for real in Iowa. Seriously.” (Washington Post)

“Niche Voters Giving Paul Momentum in Iowa Polls” (New York Times)

“Ron Paul’s 19 percent in Iowa may indicate a path to the nomination” (Daily Caller)

“GOP outsider Ron Paul gaining traction in Iowa” (Associated Press)

“Ron Paul And Libertarians Can't Be Discounted” (Forbes)

A Bloomberg News poll this past week shows a four-way scrum for the lead in Iowa, with Paul in second place. (Cain gets 20 percent, Paul 19 percent, Mitt Romney 18 percent, and Newt Gingrich 17 percent among likely caucus goers.)

“A caucus state like Iowa is tailor-made to maximize the vote for a candidate like Ron Paul,” University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry Sabato told The Daily Caller. “He has a dedicated band of supporters who will show up to vote in three feet of snow.”

That dedication shows up two ways in the latest poll in Iowa

Among likely caucus-goers who say their minds are made up, Paul leads with 32 percent, followed by Romney at 25 percent and former House speaker Gingrich at 17 percent, Bloomberg reports. And Paul’s campaign leads for voter contact, with about two-thirds of respondents saying they’ve heard from his campaign.

“Paul gets labeled a fringe candidate. But in this era of a closely divided electorate, anyone who commands the allegiance that Paul does from an activist libertarian movement must be accounted for in the political calculus,” pollster John Zogby writes in his regular Forbes column.

Dedicated allegiance has paid off for Paul in a string of straw polls.

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