Chris Wallace is a brave man, and I’m sure his inbox is quickly filling with thousands of unintelligible hate messages from Ron Paul fans as I type. He is right, though. Because Paul has zero chance of winning the Republican nomination, a victory in Iowa would basically just reset the clock:
“Well, and the Ron Paul people aren’t going to like me saying this, but, to a certain degree, it will discredit the Iowa caucuses because, rightly or wrongly, I think most of the Republican establishment thinks he is not going to end up as the nominee. So, therefore, Iowa won’t count and it will go on.”
But while a Ron Paul win in Iowa would likely be meaningless for his own campaign, it could have some interesting effects on the race. First, it would shake up the current narrative of the two-man competition, and potentially provide an opening for a candidate other than Gingrich or Romney to rise up. It could also be the pin that deflates the Gingrich bubble, since the former Speaker would fall short of expectations if he loses in Iowa.
But it could have some negative impacts as well. Phil Klein writes that supporting Paul in Iowa for strategic reasons may lend credibility to his crackpot views on Israel and foreign policy:
There is no question that a Paul victory would rattle Washington’s GOP establishment. But a Paul victory in Iowa would also help mainstream his noxious foreign policy views — particularly on Israel.…
If Paul won Iowa, his elevated status, at a minimum, would give more credibility to his foreign policy views. It could also allow global propaganda outlets to boast that a leading contender for the U.S. presidency thinks Gaza is a “concentration camp,” and argued that the raid that killed Osama bin Laden violated international law. And that’s just for starters.
Those who want Paul to win Iowa merely to “send a message” should realize that a Paul victory won’t send the message that they hope it will.
Support for Israel is a core value issue for Republicans, and one win by Paul isn’t going to change that. But Republicans in Iowa would be sending a message that Paul’s unforgivable flaws – the bigotry-laced newsletters he published for years, his dangerous foreign policy positions – are somehow more acceptable than Gingrich’s and Romney’s faults. If you’re going to throw away your vote on that, what’s the point of voting at all?