Nightly News | December 14, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And while Gingrich and Romney are getting nearly all the attention right now, the man to watch in Iowa could very well be Ron Paul . One poll showing him one point from Gingrich and running second. NBC 's Andrea Mitchell has more on Ron Paul 's recent rise in the heartland.
ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: He could be this year's sleeper candidate or even king maker, easily drawing the biggest crowds in Iowa with a pitch in perfect tune with this year's angry voters.
Representative RON PAUL: They don't have the vaguest idea what liberty's all about.
MITCHELL: A true blue libertarian who godfathered the tea party , Ron Paul hasn't flipped or flopped since he's been in politics and has always hated government regulations.
Rep. PAUL: So my ideal as a symbol of moving in a different direction, I would like to restore your right to drink raw milk any time you wanted to.
MITCHELL: While quirky and folksy, Paul does know how to play raw politics, confronting Newt Gingrich to his face...
Rep. PAUL: Freddie Mac is bailed out by the taxpayers. So in a way, Newt , I think you probably got some of our taxpayers' money.
MITCHELL: And in ads.
MITCHELL: Paul also delivered an anti-war message that resonates with many college students.
Rep. PAUL: (From ABC News/Republican Debate): This idea that we can be the policemen of the world and settle all these disputes, I mean, soon we'll have to quit because we're flat out broke.
MITCHELL: It appears to be paying off. In the latest NBC / Marist poll in Iowa , Paul is statistically tied for second with Romney , behind Gingrich , and has a better organization than both.
Ms. ANN SELZER (Iowa Analyst): From all reports, I understand he has a strong ground game and that could surge him forward.
MITCHELL: The best indicator of Paul 's strength in Iowa , he almost won the straw poll in August. And experts say so far he or his campaign have personally touched more Iowa voters than any of the other candidates. Paul could also be a huge factor if he runs as a third party candidate.
DAVID GREGORY reporting: Are you ruling it out?
Rep. PAUL: I'm not going to rule anything out or anything in.
Mr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Political Analyst): I think there is some chance of a Ron Paul third party run, and, frankly, it would be a problem for the Republicans .
MITCHELL: In fact, Ron Paul could prove that you don't have to be blow-dried or out of a cookie cutter mold to shake up this most unpredictable Republican race. Andrea Mitchell , NBC News, Washington.
WILLIAMS: We wanted to take a moment to tell you about our new home on the Web . For all of our political reporting, the first of many reminders, the address is easy to remember, nbcpolitics.com.