Rep. Ron Paul, the oldest candidate in the Republican presidential race at 76, has the most support among young people in Iowa, where his campaign is surging.
Thirty-three per cent of Iowans under age 45 support Paul; former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts ranks second at 16 per cent, according to the latest survey by Public Policy Polling.
The Paul campaign offered me more information from their own polling sources buttressing the point—48 percent of 18- to 29- year-olds in Iowa favor Paul; his closest competitor among those voters is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 19 per cent.
Young people could bring Paul a crucial edge. Many are expected to flood the nominating caucuses January 3 but also provide a lift for Paul in terms of volunteering to drum up support and getting others to the caucus sites.
"We have an army of youth to help us in our ground game," a senior Paul adviser told me. One concern., however, is whether a large number of college students will stay home over the holiday period rather than return to their campuses in Iowa in time to vote two weeks from today.
Asked to explain Paul's apparent strength among the young, the adviser said, "He appeals because they can seen his intellectual honesty. He is not 'the great communicator' but he is 'the great provocateur," a natural-born teacher—that is, he says things so bluntly that they rush home to Google and see for themselves and then embrace him enthusiastically because the pride of discovery or pride of authorship is at work."
He adds: "Young people have figured out that some are gaming the system. And while that may always have been and will be, it has been taken to extremes. They realize that they are paying 8 percent on their student loans while big bankers and companies are getting billions of zero per cent interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve. They have been able to follow what RP has been saying and they get it, and they are both enraged and empowered by their discovery."
There are downsides to Paul's rise. The longtime representative from Texas is now undergoing increased scrutiny and criticism from the media and from other candidates.
But so far it hasn't stopped Paul's surge. The PPP survey found that Paul now leads the GOP field in Iowa with 23 percent of likely caucus voteers, while Romney is in second place wth 20 percent and Gingrich has dropped to third with 14.