By all accounts, Ron Paul is on a roll in Iowa.
In the latest ABC News / Washington post poll, Paul is tied with Mitt Romney for second place in the state.
Paul has visited the Hawkeye State more than 50 times since he declared his candidacy – and this week he kept up a grueling schedule of town hall meetings, media interviews and college rallies.
Paul explained his non-interventionist foreign policy to a packed rally of more than 1,000 mostly young people at Iowa State University on Thursday night.
The 12-term congressman has long done well with college students and drew another 700 mostly college students the following night at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
“He likes to do what he says – he says what he means – he doesn’t beat around the bush – he’s kind of entertaining to watch,” said Iowa State University student Mario Winburn.
Winburn said that he appreciates Paul’s consistency on issues ranging from abortion to the debt ceiling.
He also likes that Paul “doesn’t play politics,” said Winburn.
Although he has a favorable impression of the candidate, he’s not sold just yet. He’s giving all the presidential contenders a shot. Winburn voted for Obama during the last election, but is now taking a look at Ron Paul this time around.
“Ron Paul has something that just different about him could possible make him the next president,” said Winburn.
Indeed one of those differences has been to state his views, no matter how against the grain they appear.
During a presidential debate in September, fellow GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum challenged Paul to explain an article that the U.S. Congressman wrote, which he said blames America for 9/11.
However when Paul began to cite U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and America’s policy on Palestine as being the causes of the attacks, the audience booed him.
Undaunted, Paul continued to explain his view of why the attacks occurred.
At the end, Paul said “Would you be annoyed? If you’re not annoyed, then there’s some problem.”
Curiosity about Paul also attracted Ray Mitchem, his wife, and two of their friends this morning to a Ron Paul town hall event in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Mitchem is just also not sold yet on a presidential pick. He has concerns about Paul’s foreign policy views, especially on his views concerning 9/11.
“We feel lucky that we are in Iowa and we can do things like this, a town hall meeting is as grass roots as you can get, said Mitchem. So we want to take advantage of that. ”
Paul’s foreign policy views are apparently one of his greatest weaknesses. Almost half of all respondents to a recent ABC News / Washington Post poll said Paul’s foreign policy views were a major reason to reject him.
And an uneasy embrace was evident at a town hall event Friday in Webster City, Iowa when Paul took a question from a member of the audience who urged him to “tell everyone that you love Israel.”
Paul reiterated his view that by taking away Israel’s foreign aid he’s actually protecting the nation’s sovereignty and that Israel doesn’t need U.S. foreign aid.
Paul Gains Momentum
The Paul campaign has been picking up steam.
The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll of potential voters in Iowa and New Hampshire show him in second or third place in the early-primary states.
To continue building momentum, the campaign set its sights on new national front-runner Newt Gingrich.
Paul is running an ad against the man he once served under when Gingrich was House speaker, accusing him of “serial hypocrisy.”
Paul plans an even more extensive get-out-the-vote effort in coming weeks by sending 500 young supporters to Iowa and New Hampshire to travel around the key early-voting states to drum up support and convince those who are still on the fence to vote for Ron Paul.