(CHICAGO) — Two weeks before the Iowa caucuses kick off voting in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, candidates continue to fall by the wayside. Mitt Romney can’t get traction in Iowa, Newt Gingrich has started to slip there, Rick Perry surged in the summer but then slumped, Michele Bachmann won the state’s straw poll only to later plunge in the polls, and one-time front-runner Herman Cain suspended his campaign.
But someone’s got to win this thing and, more and more, signs in the Hawkeye State suggest that that someone could be Ron Paul.
A new telephone survey of nearly 600 likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, conducted by Public Policy Polling, puts Paul in the lead with 23 percent support, ahead of Romney at 20 percent and Gingrich at 14 percent. The poll comes as Gingrich’s support in Iowa appears to be waning.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted earlier this month put Gingrich in the lead at 33 percent, followed by Paul and Romney tied at 18 percent apiece.
With Gingrich fading and Romney seemingly stuck at the same levels of support he has enjoyed for the past six months, the door is open for Paul to spring a surprise in Iowa. The Texas Congressman, whose backers might be the most vocal and loyal of any in the race, leads Romney by a 2-to-1 margin as the candidate most likely to, “stand up for what he or she believes.”
“The challenge isn’t all that great on how we’re going to beat Obama. I think he’s beating himself,” Paul said at Thursday’s debate in Sioux City. “I think really the question is, what do we have to offer? And I have something different to offer. I emphasize civil liberties. I emphasize a pro-American foreign policy, which is a lot different than ‘Policemen of the World.’ I emphasize, you know, monetary policy and these things that the other candidates don’t talk about.”
“But I think the most important thing is the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom,” he went on to say. “And that brings people together. It brings independents into the fold and it brings Democrats over on some of these issues. So therefore I see this philosophy as being very electable because it’s an America philosophy.”
But the electability question is one that has plagued Paul. While he has earned the fervent devotion of his supporters by standing out from the crowd, his critics contend that he has no shot of earning the GOP nomination and, if somehow he did, the consequences would be disastrous for the party.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Heather Long, CNN
Marissa Morrison, KIVI
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN