First off, Paul’s wife has been hospitalized, and I wish her speedy recovery. From reports, though, looks like she’s doing fine so good news there.

Now then…expectations are high and apparently Ron Paul supporters are out in full force today. This has the media paying attention, and they’re starting to make non specific promises that if Paul places high today, he’s going to start getting a lot more coverage.

From the Wash Post:

The Texas congressman is the X-factor in the straw poll. He has a HUGE presence here but does that translate into votes from actual Iowans? We really don’t know the answer yet. Make no mistake: If Paul bursts into the top 3, his candidacy is going to start getting a lot more attention very quickly.

Meanwhile, it also appears as if the media is noting a “dirty tricks” campaign by some Paul supporters, where they’re encouraging Iowans to hop on buses Romney rented and use Romney’s tickets to vote for Paul.

This would be hilarious if it worked, and completely genius.

“Some say if Mitt is willing to bus Iowans to Ames for the straw poll, they should take him up on his offer!” says a flier in Iowa and on the Internet in advance of the straw poll for the Republican presidential candidates. The flier says that after riding the Romney bus to Ames, and allowing the Romney campaign to pay one’s $35 entry fee, Iowans should then carefully weigh their options and “they may decide to vote for Ron Paul.”

The flier is topped with a banner that says “2008 Ron Paul News,” but Jesse Benton, a campaign spokesman, said it was the handiwork of independent supporters over whom the campaign had no control. “We can’t tell our supporters what to do or not do,” Mr. Benton said, adding that the campaign did not want to get “entangled” with federal finance regulations involving potential in-kind contributions.

And the Paul campaign says this isn’t a make or break day for Paul. I disagree…

Mr. Benton would not speculate where Mr. Paul might finish, but said he expected most of the candidates to receive between 1,500 and 3,000 votes. “If we can be somewhere in the middle of that pack, that would be a big success for us,” he said. “Our goal is to prove that we can translate our online support into bodies in Ames and prove we can run with the pack. We feel we have a lot of room to grow, while other campaigns might have reached their peak.”

Sure, middle of the pack like he is right now? Having 30,000 supporters around the country is fantastic, but if the Dean campaign showed the world anything, it’s hard to translate that into real votes. Some of less astute fans of Paul may call me names, but I think the more seasoned political observers who support Paul understand just how important it is to place well, if not first, in this contest. Again, it harken’s back to 2004 when Dean won the online poll. Paul has to rocket out of nowhere to capture the country’s imagination.

What would be a dream scenario for Paul would he wins and the Romney campaign cries foul because of the dirty trick campaign by Paul’s supporters. That would make Mitt look weak, and that’s what Paul needs right now.

More as it develops…


Video courtesy of TheNewsRoom.

Politics Iowa Straw Poll Ron Paul Roundup