Could the guy from Texas possibly win the Republican Iowa caucuses come January? And kick off the actual GOP nomination race with a surprising big bang?
By 'the guy from Texas' we don't mean Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his own candidacy before a gathering of conservative writers in South Carolina Saturday. He could well win it too.
But we're talking now about the other Texan in the Republican race, the elderly 11-term congressman named Ron Paul.
Once upon a time the libertarian-like Paul was considered a fringe candidate.
He still is.
The trouble for mainstream Republicans is that Paul's devoted disciples just keep on carving out apparent victories for the kindly old guy, whose son Rand is now a U.S. senator from Kentucky. The senior Paul is an Air Force vet and retired ob-gyn. He's now five years older than John McCain was when everyone said John McCain was too old to move into the White House.
History would suggest he has little or no chance of becoming the nominee, let alone the president. But history also suggests that a dedicated band of hardcore believers could in a crowded field produce an upset win for Paul come that chilled caucus night in January. It worked for Huckabee, who won the caucuses in 2008 after finishing second in the 2007 straw poll.
Most of the attention from Saturday's Ames Straw Poll has focused on another House member, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota via Iowa. With a gritty determination and fresh appeal, Bachmann captured the straw poll win, which is meaningless except from a PR point of view.
But less noticed was Paul's showing, second place, only 152 votes behind the media starlette. Think he would have been invited onto all five Sunday shows?
But it's interesting to speculate on Paul's outlook. Since 2008, the issues and the electorate have moved in his direction.
Everyone agrees Tim Pawlenty is a really decent guy, accomplished as Minnesota's governor and well organized in Iowa. But he badly trailed Paul Saturday and dropped out Sunday. Why?
One good reason is Pawlenty's calm, reasoned demeanor did not reflect the high-octane....