SIOUX CITY, IOWA –The alarms are sounding in Iowa.
Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
In spin rooms, bar rooms and online forums, the what-to-do-about-Paul conversation has become pervasive as polls show him at or near the top here just weeks before the January 3rd vote.
Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.
“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”
What especially worries Iowa Republican regulars is the possibility that Paul could win here on January 3rd with the help of Democrats and independents who change their registration to support the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman but then don’t support the GOP nominee next November.
“I don’t think any candidate perverting the process in that fashion helps [the caucuses] in any way,” said Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, adding that he didn’t know if that’s necessarily how Paul would win.