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Aug. 11 Debate Important for Paul and Santorum

August 9, 2011 - Mike Donahey
A warm-up to Saturday’s Iowa Straw Poll is a debate Thursday evening in Ames between the major Republican candidates. It is co-sponsored by Fox News and the Washington Examiner. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will be there. It is important both do well for different reasons.

Paul, the former gynecologist-obstetrician and 1988 Libertarian presidential candidate, must convince doubters and undecided voters that he has a wide grasp of policy issues and not just those dear to his heart. He is an outspoken critic against abortion, having authored “Abortion and Liberty” in 1983. His stand on abortion bothered some Libertarians, as the party supports personal liberty and opposes laws and restrictions on actions and lifestyles of individuals.

Paul has called for a return to the gold standard, which was dropped in the 1970s by then President Nixon. The importance of the gold standard and its chances of being re-implemented have been questioned and debated by economists.

Give Paul credit, he knows how to organize a campaign and win. He finished third in the 1988, presidential race, garnering 500,000 votes. Importantly, he has won a congressional seat and subsequent re-elections against more established and better-financed opposition. He has represented his district since 1997 and serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Expect him to showcase foreign affairs and economics knowledge during the debate.

A large crowd came out to see him in Marshalltown and Paul yard signs can be seen throughout the area. In their Aug. 8 online edition, polling service Rasmussen Reports reported Paul with 16 percent of support from likely Republican caucus attendees. This put him in the top three. Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann earned 22 percent support while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney picked up 21 percent. The poll was conducted Aug. 4. Polls can be tricky, however. They are a snapshot of voter’s opinions at one point in time. And the same report said many voters are open to changing their mind before the 2012 caucus day arrives.

While his campaign may find those results positive, Paul and his supporters are focused on Ames. Credit his organization if he finishes in the top three. A $51,000 purchase of prime booth space from the Iowa Republican Party at the event should help.

Santorum’s poll numbers have been in the single digits in Iowa, but that has not deterred his campaign. He was in Marshalltown Friday and sticking to his guns. Specifically, he announced at the town hall meeting that he is in the race for “leadership and not showmanship” — perhaps a jab at Bachmann and the president. A Santorum administration would have a balanced budget and would be a “champion of faith and families,” he said. While here, he promoted his underdog status and ability to beat incumbent Democrats, something he proved in the 2000 Senate race. A recent Des Moines Register candidate profile highlighted his decision not to moderate his stands (against the advice of a good friend) in the 2006 Senate race against Democrat challenger Bob Casey. (Casey won big — 59 percent to 41 percent).

Santorum must prove he is a viable candidate and not get lost in the crowd. And the crowd may became bigger as Texas Gov. Rick Perry intends to join the presidential race Saturday, according to an online report Monday in the New York Times. However, the report said he would stop short of making a formal announcement.

 
 

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