Is Ron Paul a Fringe Candidate?

After the Ames poll, pundits and the media pay little attention to Ron Paul's second place.

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Most national polls indicate Paul trails the presumed top tier, though a few place him even with or ahead of Bachmann. A Real Clear Politics average of recent polls pegs him at 8.8 percent, behind Romney's 20.2, Perry's 18.4, Bachmann's 9.6, and even non-candidate Sarah Palin's 10 percent.

That doesn't mean his message doesn't resonate and supporters say that bringing his ideas to the table has been a huge benefit to the 2012 campaign cycle. "Here's a guy who is actually challenging [other candidates] to reconsider their positions" rather than focusing on back and forth attacks, says Dennis, the San Francisco Republican. "They're not just going to be able to throw out stock lines and get away with it."

Dennis sat in the audience at a one of Paul's speeches in Iowa, and as he listened to Paul talk about the amount of money the United States spends on the wars, he heard some in the audience whisper to each other, "he's right about that." Whether or not Paul can win over the establishment, Dennis warns, "Dismiss him at your own peril, because people are hearing what he's saying."

  • See a slide show of the 2012 GOP candidates: Who is in and who is out.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP primary.
  • See a photo gallery of Michele Bachmann on the campaign trail.