Ron Paul may be peaking at just the right time. With two weeks to go until the January 3 Iowa caucuses, two new polls show the libertarian congressman narrowly leading Mitt Romney for first place in Iowa.
“He has an outstanding chance of winning in Iowa,” according to Bob Vander Plaats, who served as Mike Huckabee's 2008 state campaign chairman. “There’s a lot about Ron Paul that people like," Vander Plaats says, pointing to Paul's "almost prophetic" vision of our economic problems and his commitment to do away with "politics as usual."
But Paul could face trouble with values voters in Iowa, where 60 percent of GOP caucusgoers are evangelical Christians. Vander Plaats says his socially conservative umbrella organization, the Family Leader, has ruled out endorsing Paul because “sometimes [Paul's] libertarian views trump his moral compass."
"On abortion, [Paul] believes that's a states' rights issue, we believe that's a morality issue," says Vander Plaats. In a post-Roe v. Wade world, "We don't believe abortion should be legal in Maine and illegal in Iowa." (Paul voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, but expressed deep reservations about voting for a federal law on abortion.)
“We’re very concerned” about Paul’s position that the government shouldn't recognize civil marriage, Vander Plaats continues. The group also balks at some of Paul's foreign policy views. ”Even though we may agree with him that we're not called to be the policeman of the world, we do believe we're called to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel," says Vander Plaats. "And we do believe [a nuclear-armed] Iran is a definite threat not only to Israel, but to our freedom as well."
To expand his support beyond his loyal band of followers, Paul has been trying to appeal to Iowa's socially conservative voters. In a moving ad, he highlights his anti-abortion position. He recalls witnessing doctors in a hospital performing a late-term abortion in one room and working to save the life of a premature baby in another room. “Who are we to decide that we pick and throw one away and pick up and struggle to save the other ones?” Paul asks. “Unless we resolve this and understand that life is precious and we must protect life, we can’t protect liberty.”
Vander Plaats says he doesn't think very many Iowa voters are aware that Paul thinks it should be up to states to decide whether or not to protect human life. But now that Paul leading in the Iowa polls, his positions may come under greater scrutiny.
Vander Plaats thinks the race remains very fluid, and his organization hopes to make an impact with an endorsement soon. "There are still 70 to 80 percent of caucusgoers who have not made up their minds. I do believe this caucus has the opportunity to break late and break fast. And I do believe it’s completely set up for a surprise to take place," he says. "We’ll see if we can help out with that surprise.”