Texas Rep. Ron Paul stands in second position in the latest Iowa caucus polls, tied with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 17 points. If his public meetings in the state of Iowa are anything to go by, he might pull off surprises here.
There are some key factors that have helped Paul slowly but steadily gain support among the Republican base.
His ability to connect to younger crowds: Ron Paul is considered a libertarian among the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. Though he is 75, Paul connects with youth more readily than his younger competitors. Many youth are drawn to his philosophy of less government control. He has a progressive stand on many issues that the younger generation is concerned with.
Paul's arguments on individual freedom, legalizing the use of cannabis, lower taxes and cutting government expenditure attract to the younger crowd.
They feel he is trustworthy and a no-nonsense guy compared to the likes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Romney. His growing popularity among youngsters is evident from the huge number of college students who flock to his appearances. The University of Iowa's student newspaper, The Daily Iowan, endorsed Paul, stating it as the only logical conclusion.
His record in Congress: Paul is an experienced congressman and has deep knowledge of the U.S. economy, policies and Constitution. He has been consistent in his stand on various issues and never deviated from his principles throughout his career in Congress.
He has always advocated cutting federal spending over education and social programs and voted for any bill moved in this direction. This presents himself as someone who is determined to do what he believes in. This gives Paul an upper hand over contenders like Gingrich and Romney, who are known for changing their views.
His foreign policy: Paul's foreign policy is both his strength and weakness. He believes in less government intervention both on the domestic and international fronts. He wants to bring back troops from all over the world. This directly appeals to the young and middle generation Americans who believe that U.S. resources and manpower are unnecessarily sacrificed in foreign wars. But the same makes Paul unacceptable to those who cannot accept any policy that might diminish the U.S. control over rest of the world.
His background and life: Ron Paul is a pro-life and pro-family candidate who came from a lower-middle-class family. His principles and policies are drawn from his life experience, a journey from modest beginnings to the current position he is in.
He is projected as a realistic and disciplined person with common sense, and this distinguishes him from other top Republican front runners like Gingrich, Romney and Perry. He can be a true representative of middle-class American spirit.
All these have worked in Paul's favor and his support base could strengthen further. It may be too early to predict a complete change of scenario in the 2012 U.S. presidential polls, but it is clear that Ron Paul cannot be ruled out as a weak contender.