Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, once considered a fringe candidate, is not only rising in the polls to challenge those considered GOP presidential frontrunners, but is now being taken seriously as a threat in Iowa and New Hampshire by some members of the so-called Washington establishment.

During the “Roundtable” segment of ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, panelists Matthew Dowd, a former campaign strategist for President George W. Bush, and Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter, explained why Paul is a legitimate contender.

“The other thing I think Christiane to watch is Ron Paul. Ron Paul is right now, he’s second in Iowa,” Dowd said. “He’s second in New Hampshire. And of the people in top tier, he has the most passion behind his candidacy. I would not be surprised at all seven weeks from now that Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucuses and goes into New Hampshire, disrupts this field even more.”

Later in the discussion, Washington Post columnist George Will said Paul was a real threat in another way – he could emerge as a third-party candidate.

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