A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s support has spiked among some key Republican groups, and he’s widely credited with being genuine and arguing for limited government. The momentum has him knocking on the door of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in early GOP nomination contests.

But Paul’s views on foreign policy are seen more as a negative than a positive among potential primary and caucus-goers, and fewer than half think his policies would be acceptable to most Americans. In addition, he may need a top-notch turnout operation — similar to his widely-praised organization in Iowa — as his base is dominated by groups that typically don’t show up in big numbers to GOP primaries.

Among the 18 to 49 age group, Paul more than doubled his support from 8 percent in November to 20 percent in the new Post-ABC poll, and he gained 10 points among men. Paul continues to run strongest among independents who lean Republican (16 percent and unchanged from last month), but his support among self-identified Republicans grew from 4 to 11 percent since November.

Strengths and weaknesses

The survey finds Paul’s small government attitudes and straight-talking approach are his clearest strengths. More than half of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say his views on limited government are a major reason to support him; fewer than one in five hold such views against him.

Nearly two in three say they can rely on Paul to speak his true beliefs, compared with barely half who say the same about Gingrich or Romney. As the Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote Tuesday, these numbers represent a basic “authenticity problem” for the Republican field, but not one for Paul individually.

On the downside for Paul, more than four in 10 say his opposition to military intervention overseas is a major count against him, while fewer than three in 10 see this as a positive factor. And just over four in 10 say the think Paul’s policies would be acceptable to most Americans, a number that rises to over six in 10 for Gingrich and Romney.

In case you missed it, read why Paul as a third party candidate could doom the GOP in 2012.

Read the full poll results

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