People keep saying -- as George Will does in today's Washington Post -- that Ron Paul will do well in next weekend's Ames, Iowa straw poll because of his small but intense base of support. Will writes:
If Paul finishes first or second, the political community will shrug: There he goes again, the Babe Ruth of straw polls.
Well, maybe they will. But they shouldn't. Because in fact, Ron Paul finished fifth in the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll. So if he finishes first or second or even third this year, it will in fact signal a major increase in his ability to reach and turn out voters. That might be because he's making a far more intense effort to actually organize in Iowa than he did in 2007-8. Or it might be because, as Will did acknowledge, "events seem to be validating his message, which is that the country’s financial condition is awful." But it won't be something to shrug at.
Of course, it also won't put him on a straight line to the nomination. In 2007 Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Straw Poll, and John McCain finished tenth.