In Iowa, Ron Paul is rising, said Chris Cillizza in WashingtonPost.com. The state’s influential first-in-the-nation caucuses take place on Jan. 3, and the libertarian Texas congressman has made a sudden late surge to first place in the polls. Newt Gingrich, well ahead in recent weeks, now seems to have “peaked slightly too soon,” and is sinking as a result of relentless attack ads by a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Paul has emerged as “the smart guy’s pick to win,” with a well-funded campaign, and a passionate base of young supporters entranced by the outspoken 76-year-old’s anti-authoritarian views, including his insistence that marijuana and other drugs be legalized. During the Obama presidency, said Ed Kilgore in The New Republic, the GOP has moved much closer to Paul’s anti-government extremism. His “endless fulminations” about the evil Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, as well as his call to roll back the social programs of the New Deal and the Great Society, “now all sound completely within the conservative mainstream.”
Paul deserves a full hearing, said Andrew Sullivan in TheDailyBeast.com. In an era when the GOP has been dominated by neoconservative hawks, unhinged Obama haters, and unprincipled flip-floppers, Paul’s “modest, humble libertarianism” is refreshing. Admittedly, he can be “a crank” at times, but he is also the only candidate talking about “real cuts in entitlements and spending,” including to the military. Paul’s enormous popularity among young voters could inject new life into a moribund GOP. And how can you not like a candidate who’s been “ignored, condescended to, and caricatured by both the liberal media and the Fox Propaganda machine”?
Easily, said Rich Lowry in the New York Post. Paul has accused his own country of waging war on Muslims, and said that the U.S. provoked 9/11 by meddling in the Middle East. This isn’t so much isolationism as a “poisonous view of America itself.” And that’s before you get to the conspiracy theories about the CIA running the military, or the “embarrassing catalog” of racist and anti-Semitic material published in a newsletter bearing his name during the 1990s. Paul appeals to people who want to send a “giant message of anger to the political establishment,” said Carter Eskew in WashingtonPost.com. But if Paul does well in Iowa, the real winner will be Romney. The terrifying “specter of a Paul presidency” will send the reluctant Republican flock running home to their only viable candidate.