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Ron Paul’s ceiling rises, but it’s still a ceiling

at 06:30 AM ET, 12/21/2011

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has expanded his political brand enough to potentially win the Iowa caucuses in two weeks.

Beyond that, though, victory is going to be hard to come by, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

While Paul seems to have taken advantage of a good situation in the Hawkeye State and has improved his position nationally as well, his brand of politics remains wholly unpalatable to vast swaths of the GOP.

Paul has long been seen as a phenomenon relegated to a small slice — 5 or 10 percent — of the Republican Party. But during the 2012 campaign, he has slowly built his brand and turned himself into something more than just a favorite of libertarian-leaning Republicans (as the Post’s Peter Wallsten writes).

And he appears to have even more room to grow — to an extent.
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) speaks at the town hall in the Erickson Public Library during a campaign stop on December 8 in Boone, Iowa. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The Post/ABC poll shows he is the first choice of 15 percent of voters, which is good for third place. But perhaps more interestingly, he is the second choice of 12 percent of respondents. That means more than a quarter of Republicans can see themselves voting for Paul right now — a number that would have seemed impossible at the start of the campaign.

But once you get beyond that quarter-plus, the opposition hardens significantly.

For an example, look at his position on foreign policy.

The new Post/ABC poll finds that 45 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners say that Paul’s opposition to U.S. military intervention overseas is a “major reason” to oppose he candidacy.

By comparison, only 36 percent say that same of the health care bill Mitt Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts. That bill is supposed by some to be Romney’s albatross and has been covered much more in-depth during the presidential campaign. Yet Paul’s foreign policy is much more of a hurdle for him.

Among self-described conservatives, it’s an even bigger hurdle: 56 percent say Paul’s foreign policy is a major problem, while just 41 percent say that same of Romney’s health care bill.

Similarly, just 7 percent of respondents say Paul would be their choice to be commander in chief, and 51 percent say he doesn’t have the personality and temperament it takes to be president (compared to 26 percent who said that of Romney and 33 percent of Newt Gingrich).

When the race is crowded, Paul can win Iowa with 20 or 25 percent of the vote. When other candidates start dropping out, though, he’ll need to rack up larger percentages to have a chance to win.

And despite his successful efforts to expand his appeal, there’s only so much that can be done in one campaign, and Paul is not a viable option for too many Republican voters for him to be considered a potential GOP nominee at this point.

Whatever bump he gets out of a win in Iowa, it would likely be a blip on the screen.

Poll shows Obama over 50 in general election: President Obama’s poll numbers have recovered a bit, and now it’s showing in general election polling.

For the first time in a long time, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Obama leading the top three GOP presidential candidates — Romney, Gingrich and Paul — and taking more than 50 percent against each of them.

It’s the first time Obama has taken more than 50 percent of the vote in a matchup with Romney since a June Reuters/Ipsos poll. Romney led Obama with more than 50 percent in the last CNN poll last month.

Meanwhile, CBS News is the fourth poll this week to show Gingrich and Romney in a virtual tie (i.e. within the margin of error), and the third to show them in an actual tie (i.e. the same percentage).

Fixbits:

Gary Johnson is indeed switching parties to seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

Is it even correct to call Gingrich a historian?

Gingrich says Romney can ask the super PAC supporting him to stop running negative ads. Romney had said he would go to jail if he did such a thing, citing the prohibition on coordinating with the super PAC.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) hops on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bus.

No more Mr. Nice Ex-President; Bill Clinton says the balanced budgets under Gingrich’s speakership were a result of the 1993 budget that Gingrich opposed before becoming speaker.

Newt and Callista Gingrich’s Iowa holiday ad.

The House ethics committee says Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has done nothing wrong.

The Hotline’s Sean Sullivan recaps how the Senate candidates who are currently in the House voted on the payroll tax cut extension.

Must-reads:

Gingrich Heads to Virginia for Ballot Push” — Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

The Company Ron Paul Keeps” — James Kirchik, Weekly Standard

Republican presidential candidates ramp up Iowa ads before caucus” — Amy Gardner and T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

 
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