Ron Paul is now leading in Iowa polls of GOP voters. It’s quite possible – if not likely – that he’ll win the Hawkeye State caucuses on Jan 3. He’s well positioned in New Hampshire, too. Depending on how he does there, Representative Paul could scramble the entire Republican presidential race.
Naturally, in light of Paul’s surge in fortunes, those in the party who disapprove of the Texas libertarian are now moving to attack him.
First up this week was the Weekly Standard, a newsmagazine notable for its (fruitless) efforts to get New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and/or Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin into the GOP race. It ran a piece by journalist James Kirchik about the racist language contained in newsletters issued under Paul’s name in the 1980s and 1990s.
For decades, Mr. Kirchik writes, Paul promoted “hateful and conspiratorial nonsense,” including outlandish tales of racial violence, and hate speech about Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is not a new story – Kirchik and others have written about it in years past. Paul has defended himself by pointing out that he did not write any of this stuff himself and he did not know who the ghost writers producing it were.
Asked about the Kirchik story Tuesday during an appearance on CNN’s “American Morning,” Paul said that it must mean he was doing well, since people are starting to dig up old charges to try to stop him.
“It wasn’t good – but I didn’t write [the stories] and those aren’t my beliefs, so I sleep well,” said Paul.
Then Wednesday the conservative blog RedState posted a piece titled, “Ron Paul Hates Republicans and Everything They Stand For.”
Instead of backing his own party’s choice last time around, Paul endorsed a number of minor party candidates who signed on to a pledge to balance budgets, bring troops home, protect civil liberties, and investigate the Federal Reserve. These included Green Party standard bearer Cynthia McKinney, and independent candidate Ralph Nader.
Ms. McKinney is a former Democratic member of Congress who once got in trouble for striking a Capitol police officer who asked her for identification, writes Mr. Wolf. Mr. Nader’s anti-corporate views are well known.
“For whatever his failings as a Presidential candidate and conservative (and they were legion), no reasonable person would say that John McCain was worse than any of these clowns,” writes Wolf.
Not to be outdone, the conservative National Review has been running a discussion on Paul in its blog, The Corner, titled, “The Fringe Frontrunner.”
In one post National Review editor Rich Lowry describes Paul as much closer to the ideological center of the GOP in 2011 than he was in 2008. But he adds that Paul “has never been able to distinguish between fringy cranks and above-board purists” and thus has at times associated himself with “loons and bigots.”
Paul’s rivals are attacking him directly as well – Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for instance, talks about Paul’s earmarking efforts on the stump.
What does it all mean? It almost certainly means that Paul’s rise has caught the party’s notice and worried the backers of other candidates to the point where they’re not ignoring him any longer. Other front-runners have endured withering attacks this political season, and now it is Paul’s turn.
“The more progress I make in challenging the status quo ... the stronger they will emphasize picking at this and ignoring the important issues of what freedom is all about and what civil liberty is all about,” said Paul on CNN Tuesday.