As rivals attacked him and Mitt Romney pulled ahead in a new CNN poll, Ron Paul touted his appeal among both Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street activists during a last-minute push in Iowa Wednesday.
The Texas Congressman told insurance company workers he’s the candidate who can bridge the gap between seemingly dissimilar angry Americans at both ends of the political spectrum.
Just days away from the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses, Paul is at the front of the pack in a new poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling. Paul comes in first with 24 percent of support, followed closely by Mitt Romney at 20 percent and Gingrich a ways behind at 13 percent.
The Public Policy Polling analysis notes that Paul’s strength “depends on a coalition of voters that’s pretty unusual” for a Republican campaigning in Iowa. Paul has a 39-12 advantage over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romeny with the 24 percent of likely caucus-goers who identified themselves as either independents or Democrats.
“I identify with both groups,” Paul said, responding to a question at a campaign appearance at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines Wednesday about the effectiveness of the Occupy the Caucuses movement that has pledged to occupy candidate headquarters and perhaps disrupt events this week.
“Both groups are unhappy about what’s happening around the country,” he said “The Tea Party thinks the debt is too big and government should shrink; the Occupation addresses the subject of the very rich.”
Paul was careful not to appear in lockstep with the Occupy demonstrators, saying their opposition to the Wall Street bank bailout dovetails with his own criticism of the issue, while at the same time calling the movement “a mixed blessing.”
“We should address that,” Paul said. “But the people who have gotten very wealthy in a free market by producing an honest product are different and shouldn’t be lumped togehter.”
Paul said both the Tea Party and Occupy movements are healthy. “I think some people like to paint Occupy as on the left and the Tea Party as on the right, but it just makes my point that people are unhappy. They are just tired of it all.”
If economic conditions in the United States worsen, Paul said, “the demonstrations on the street will get worse.”
Paul dodged media requests that he respond to criticism from other candidates during the hour-long campaign appearance.
If Paul wins the 2012 GOP nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on CNN Tuesday that he wouldn't vote for the Texas congressman. The two have traded harsh jabs in debates, and Paul's campaign and supporters have aired TV commercials condemning Gingrich for "serial hypocrisy."
Gingrich said Paul is out of line with mainstream Republican viewpoints, including his stance on Israel, Iran, and Sept. 11.
"He's got to come up with some very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously," Gingrich told CNN Tuesday.
A poll released Friday by the American Research Group, shows Paul with 21 percent of the vote, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 20 percent, and Gingrich with 19 percent of the votes.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has visited all 99 Iowa counties and was langishing in the single digits in polls until Wednesday’s CNN poll showed he is the choice of 16 percent of likely caucus-goers, also attacked Paul on Tuesday during a stop in Cedar Falls. He said Paul's record in Congress offers no achievements and ridiculed his proposal to cut $1 trillion in government spending.