Ron Paul Takes Third, but Remains a Minor Attraction

Ron Paul has loyal followers, but ideas don't stick in the mainstream

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Ron Paul's grassroots approach to the GOP race secured him a third-place finish in Iowa, but Paul's libertarian ideas are still just an interesting sideshow.

"Ron Paul has been a fringe candidate for some time...The important thing about Ron Paul is not Ron Paul, but how people adopt his message," David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at the University of of Southern Illinois Carbondale,  said . "I don't think that Ron Paul has a chance at being the nominee." [Check out Ron Paul's secret to energy in a grueling 2012 campaign.]

With Mitt Romney outpacing Paul by more than 20 percentage points in New Hampshire, Paul might have already had his heyday.

"He's got a solid floor and a low ceiling," says Larry Sabato, the director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia."He's trying to get his ideas out there, but deep down surely Ron Paul recognizes he won't be president. He is trying to wake up the American public."

Paul's infused the GOP race with colorful statements, but his rallying call has done little to influence traditional Republican voters or fellow GOP candidates.

While pundits agree that Paul's consistent polling numbers have made his message hard to ignore, his ideas seem to be political fodder rather than realistic ideas.

Paul's approach to foreign policy, specifically regarding Iran and Israel, has made his fellow opponents appear hawkish as they draw a stark contrast between their support of intervention and Paul's hands-off isolationism.

And while cutting the federal budget is a central campaign theme in 2012, Paul's far-out concept to slash $1 trillion by ending the Federal Reserve has been mocked by his opponents. [Ron Paul's $1 trillion spending-cut plan targets five cabinet departments.]

"Paul plays an important role in this race in a time when the Republican party has done some soul searching," political strategist Brian Donahue says. "Paul's role has really been the voice of free-market-thinking capitalists and libertarians who have felt that they haven't had anyone voice their voices in the last couple of cycles.But no one is adopting any of of his specific policy stances. They are attacking them."

  • Read: Ron Paul's $1 Trillion Cut Plan Targets Five Cabinet Departments.
  • See a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP candidates.
  • Read about why Ron Paul (Probably) Won't Leave the GOP to run as a third-party candidate.