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Has the weeding begun?

June 22, 2007 |  3:06 am

Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Christian Alliance have taken the first of what will eventually be the same step by many groups to begin weeding out the overcrowded field of presidential candidates appearing in debates. There are 18 of these folks already with Fred Thompson, Al Gore and what's-his-name the rich guy from New York as future possibles.

Fred_thompson_2 Any more candidates and they're each likely to get 10 seconds apiece to explain tax policies.

Anyway, the two Iowa groups have dumped Rep. Ron Paul from their forum next week. The reasonable reasons given were his scant organization of two people and no office in Iowa, not to mention his low ranking in polls where he is an asterisk. He has visited Iowa once this year while Tommy Thompson, another also-ran, for example, has at least visited 53 of Iowa's 99 counties. The tax group's vice president, Ed Failor Jr., said they decided to invite only "credible" candidates.

You may remember Paul from his frank suggestion in one Republican debate that the U.S. invited the 9/11 attacks by bombing Iraq. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani seized the moment for a dramatic outburst of outrage, much replayed later.

We mentioned Paul the other day in an item noting his intense popularity in cyberspace. His followers may be few, but they've viewed his YouTube videos countless thousands of times and they constantly visit the candidate's website for the latest of many videos or outrage. Recently, they tried to pack a presidential Web Poll on

And these fervent followers are also fond of sending, shall we say, candid e-mails to anyone perceived as snubbing their candidate. Watch the Comment space below. The Des Moines Register was the recent target of some messages with words like "fascist," "tragic" and "evil." Others complained to Top of the Ticket for his non-showing in a recent Times Poll. Failor of the Iowa tax group got dozens of angry calls at home, a practice the Paul people say they do not condone.

Paul's campaign chair Kent Snyder said, "This campaign is changing."

What may be changing in the current political campaigns is the public's patience with the candidate chorus lines.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo: Fred Thompson; Credit: NBC