The Politico reports:
Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
In spin rooms, bar rooms and online forums, the what-to-do-about-Paul conversation has become pervasive as polls show him at or near the top here just weeks before the January 3rd vote.
Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.
“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”
Leading Republicans, looking to put the best possible frame on a Paul victory, are already testing out a message for what they’ll say if the 76-year-old Texas congressman is triumphant.
The short version: Ignore him.
“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad. “If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”
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