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Paul's surge might help Romney in Iowa


AMES, Iowa -- Mitt Romney’s chances of winning Iowa could have as much to do with Ron Paul as with Romney himself.

“No one will come back here in four years if Ron Paul wins,” said Craig Wearmouth, an undecided Republican from nearby Ogden.

“We’re worried about the caucuses,” said Norm Hill, also from Ogden and who traveled with Wearmouth to this warehouse of Kinzler Construction to hear Romney speak tonight.

Wearmouth, his wife Sue, Hill, and about a half-dozen other voters of the 400 or so here to hear Romney that First Read spoke with, who said they were undecided, echoed those sentiments. And they are now strongly considering voting for Romney.

For these Republicans, nowhere near the staunchly social conservative Western part of the state, the most important thing is beating Barack Obama, they said.

“He’s a great man, just a fantastic guy,” said Dean Thompson gesturing toward Romney, as Romney shook hands with everyone who wanted to following his speech. “I’d vote for anything that had a chance to get Obama out.”

Thompson said he leans to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party and even voted for Paul at the Ames Straw Poll. But, “I can’t,” he said of Paul. “The way he’s voiced his opinions on Iran – that’s a downfall for me.”

The Wearmouths, Hill, and Thompson all said they were Herman Cain supporters, but are still searching. They like Bachmann and Santorum, but worry about their electability. They like Perry, but said his debate performances were too damaging. And Gingrich just has too much “baggage.”

Romney’s “steady, no extremes,” Thompson said.

Still, none of these undecided had their minds made up on Romney yet. Thompson said he likes that Romney is talking about “spending more than we take in,” but wishes he were a little bolder on tax policy – like a consumption tax (aka Fair Tax) or a more “innovative” flat tax, kind of like, oh, 9-9-9.

But they liked what they heard tonight.

“Yeah,” Wearmouth said. “He was good.”

Thompson put it this way: “He’s the presumptive nominee,” he said, with a shrug of the shoulders, “So….”