Rep. Ron Paul rarely makes news, and his candidacy is frequently ignored by Beltway reporters. But headlines, his aides say, are overrated. In fact, the Texas Republican’s low-key autumn was strategic. As Paul’s competitors stumbled and sparred, he amassed a small fortune for his campaign and built a strong ground operation. And with January fast approaching, his team is ready to surprise the political world and sweep the Iowa caucuses.
“This was a movement when he first started running in 2008,” says Trygve Olson, a senior Paul adviser. “Now it’s turned into a highly professionalized campaign, but the energy from that last run is still there, and at the heart of what’s keeping up his momentum.”
The latest polls back up that confidence. In the influential Des Moines Register poll published over the weekend, Paul placed second. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, captured 25 percent of likely Iowa GOP voters, but Paul garnered 18 percent, two points ahead of Mitt Romney, who in 2008 placed second in the caucuses.
If Paul wins Iowa, the upset could upend what many politicos say is a two-man race between Gingrich and Romney. According to state GOP insiders, a Paul victory is a real possibility. In background conversations, many say Paul is much stronger than outside observers believe, with deep and wide support among a frustrated electorate. With Herman Cain’s departure from the race, operatives see Paul potentially collecting a quarter of caucus attendees.
It appears that there may be some movement on negotiations between House Republicans and President Barack Obama on the budget and debt ceiling, nine days after the government shutdown began.
A group of House Republican leaders went to the White House last night, where President Obama insisted that he wouldn’t negotiate “with a gun at [his] head.” He apparently told Republicans that he was open to short-term a spending agreement and debt ceiling hike, which would pave the way for talks.
For their part, Republicans are at least considering the short-term debt ceiling hike, which would be considerably less than the $1 trillion request made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Robert Costa of the National Review called this a “half-way” approach, meaning that President Obama would have to meet them on funding the government.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is also talking to his caucus about possibly making a deal with the White House to end the government shutdown. Politico notes that the Kentucky Republican would support “temporarily raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government in return for a handful of policy proposals.”
It looks like conservatives in the House of Representatives have succeeded. Robert Costa reported late yesterday afternoon at the National Review that Republican leadership will allow a vote on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, though what comes after that remains in question:
Leadership sources tell me the House GOP will soon vote on a continuing resolution that simultaneously funds the federal government and defunds Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are expected to announce the decision at Wednesday’s closed-door conference meeting.
Here’s how my sources expect this gambit to unfold: The House passes a “defund CR,” throws it to the Senate, and waits to see what Senator Ted Cruz and his allies can do. Maybe they can get it through, maybe they can’t. Boehner and Cantor will be supportive. But if Cruz and company can’t get it through the Senate, the leadership will urge Republicans to turn their focus to the debt limit, avoid a shutdown, and pass a CR that doesn’t defund Obamacare.
Conservative members in the House and outside grassroots and pro-growth groups have been pushing hard to kill a plan backed by leadership that wouldn’t defund ObamaCare. They’ve rallied behind an alternative proposed by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) that would delay and defund ObamaCare until 2015. Graves’ measure now has 79 co-sponsors, according to his office.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been frequently mentioned at United Liberty since he came out of nowhere last year to defeat David Dewhurst in a heated primary campaign. Since taking office in January, Cruz has wasted no time in challenging the political establishment in Washington and further endearing himself to the conservative movement.
Alongside Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), Cruz has made up a core of principled fiscal conservatives who have a genuine concern that the Constitution is being ignored, not just by the Obama Administration, but also his fellow Republicans. He, like Paul and Lee, has been a strong voice against gun control, taken a strong stand for civil liberties, driven the Republican establishment crazy, and perplexed the mainstream media. Perhaps his only real misstep along the way was his questioning of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, who would go on to win confirmation by the Senate.
Last week, American Majority Action (AMA), a group frustrated with House Republican leadership’s willingness to raise taxes and the purge of conservatives from key committees, called for House Speaker John Boehner to be replaced. AMA explained that if 16 House Republicans were to abstain from the vote for Speaker in January that Boehner wouldn’t be re-elected.
Ned Ryun, president of AMA, wrote a call to action at RedState urging activists to start calling House Republicans to ask them to abstain from the vote. Some may dismiss the notion put forward by Ryun, but the idea, which has been endorsed by Erick Erickson, editor of RedState and a talk radio host, is gaining in popularity in conservative circles.
But instead of having Republican members abstain, they may actually have the opportunity to vote for an alternative.
Should a debt deal go sour, the buzz is that Tom Price, a 58-year-old physician from Georgia, may challenge John Boehner for the speaker’s gavel.
“Price is the person we’re all watching,” says an aide close to House leadership. “We know he’s frustrated, but we don’t know much else.”