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If Ron Paul wins in Iowa, does that make the state irrelevant?

Some Republicans worry that if Ron Paul wins in Iowa, the state will be seen as ridiculous for backing a fringe candidate. But others say it would be a 'victory for retail politics in Iowa.'

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Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, laughs as he sits down with Elizabeth Rose Chamberlain, 3, of Epping, N.H., while campaigning at the Early Bird Cafe in Plaistow, N.H., Tuesday.

Charles Krupa/AP

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While the national headlines have swirled in recent days around the troublesome, racist newsletters in Rep. Ron Paul’s past, the candidate himself has continued his formidable ground campaign in Iowa, where he’s at the head of the pack in recent polls.

However his lead there, along with a strong showing in New Hampshire, is prompting alarm in some Republican corners. If Iowa delivers a win for Mr. Paul, some pundits are warning, the state will be seen as ridiculous – as fringe as the libertarian-leaning Paul is in many mainstream Republican eyes.

“If Paul wins Iowa, Iowa relegates itself to almost complete and total political obscurity,” says Patrick Griffin, an unaligned GOP strategist and senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

Iowa conservative radio talk show host Sam Clovis said recently, “I am not sure that [a Paul victory] is in the best interests of the state ... because I don’t think he is going to get any traction the rest of the way,” according to Newsmax.com.

But there’s a counternarrative too, one that argues that Iowa’s relevance isn’t based on picking the person most likely to become the nominee for president – for which it already has a poor track record – but on showing, through its caucus system, who the favorite is among committed partisans in the state.

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