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Ron Paul looks for strong Iowa caucus performance to begin GOP primary

Ron Paul has become one of the most talked-about primary candidates in the 2012 GOP presidential field. Win or lose in Iowa, his voice will continue to be heard. As Chris Cillizza reported:

Whether or not Texas Rep. Ron Paul win the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, he is, without question, the candidate that draws the most reaction — both positive and negative.

Paul’s backers would, literally, walk over hot coals for the man. His detractors tend to roll their eyes when talk of Paul as a serious candidate is broached. (The latter sentiment was summed up nicely by Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen who headlined a recent piece: “Seriously, Iowa? Ron Paul?”)

But, love him or hate him, Paul is the most interesting candidate in the field — not a bad distinction for a man who as recently as three years ago was little known outside of his home district in Texas.

One of Ron Paul’s strengths is his son Rand Paul, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and shares many of his father’s views. A son who has his own political following and career has made for a powerful surrogate on the campaign trail. As Nia-Malika Henderson explained:

It’s never too early to start thinking about 2016.

As Rep. Ron Paul, the oldest candidate in the Republican field, heads into what could be his final Iowa caucuses, his motley band of supporters is buzzing about a second coming — Sen. Rand Paul.

Rand Paul, 48, rode the wave of voter discontent in 2010, winning a U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky and promptly claiming the title of tea party senator. Ron Paul, 76, campaigned for his son, and his son is returning the favor.

At five well-attended whistle-stop rallies across the state, Paul the younger joined Paul the elder, showing that the septuagenarian congressman not only has been able to expand his support but also has the capacity to extend his brand.

While it’s not uncommon for the children of presidential candidates to stump for their parents, there is perhaps no more effective surrogate than Sen. Paul, who has voted in lock step with his father on issues that are key to fiscal conservatives and who is proof to tea party voters that the movement has moved to Washington.

The Paul camp, hoping for at least a third-place finish in Iowa, has deployed the senator to tout his father’s anti-establishment credentials.

“Anybody here want their government to mind their own business?” Rand Paul asked, garnering a raucous “yes” from the audience, before introducing his dad in the ballroom of a downtown Marriott. “There is only one candidate who will balance the budget in one term . . . there is only one candidate who has never been accused of flip-flopping . . . that candidate is my father.”

Even though Ron Paul has polled strongly in Iowa for several weeks, his performance might not be enough to win the caucuses. As Chris Cillizza reported:

Below are the odds we give each candidate in Iowa. The numbers are based on conversations with strategists for many of the contenders, independent poll figures and a little bit of historical context sprinkled in for taste.

Mitt Romney (1-1): The former Massachusetts governor is the best bet to win the caucuses because he is the only candidate aggressively competing for the mainstream/establishment vote in the state. The five others in the race are trying to emerge as the social-conservative/tea party choice.

Rick Santorum (4-1): A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday night made plain that the former senator from Pennsylvania is the momentum candidate. Although he took 15 percent overall in the four-day survey, he was at 21 percent in the final two days — a sign that he is peaking in the waning moments.

The key for Santorum is how much of the vote he can peel off other socially conservative candidates — most notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who, despite major spending in Iowa, doesn’t appear to be rising fast enough.

Ron Paul (5-1): The congressman from Texas has the most reliable base — between 15 percent and 19 percent — in the field. But his ability to grow beyond that has always been very much up in the air, and it’s even more so now as Paul has come under withering attack from the likes of former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Both Bachmann and Gingrich have painted Paul not only as outside the mainstream of Republican Party thought, which he is, but also as potentially dangerous if elected.

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