In the Ames Straw Poll, the first major organizing test of the 2012 Republican presidential race, there is a strain of thinking that Paul could seriously challenge the likes of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for supremacy on Saturday.

“He’s got the supporter passion of a Bachmann with the organization of a Pawlenty,” said one senior Iowa Republican strategist unaffiliated with any of the campaigns. “He builds on 2007 and the caucus last time, and I think he can turn out the 3,000 votes he needs to win.”

The conventional wisdom on the ground in Iowa is that Paul, Bachmann and Pawlenty will finish in the win, place and show slots — with Bachmann still regarded as the most likely first place finisher.

The operative question in assessing Paul’s chances at winning at Ames tomorrow is just how many people will show up.

“Turnout under 12,000 favors Ron Paul,” said one veteran GOP straw poll watcher. “Turnout over 14,000 favors Bachmann.”

Continue reading →