The Republican presidential field is beginning to turn its guns on Ron Paul, hoping to depress his support in Iowa and New Hampshire in order to open up room for themselves.
While Ron Paul’s racist newsletters and fringe ties are drawing scrutiny in the press, much of the fire Paul is facing from his fellow candidates is actually focused on his foreign policy views, especially his insistence that Iran’s nuclear program is not a threat.
“He is just fine with Iran having a nuclear weapon and they have already stated they will just use a nuclear weapon against the United States,” Michele Bachmann told CBS this week. “Ron Paul would be dangerous for the United States on foreign policy.”
Mitt Romney took a similar tack on Wednesday.
“One of the people running for president thinks it’s OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “I don’t.”
So far Newt Gingrich is the only candidate to explicitly say the newsletter issue should disqualify Ron Paul from mainstream politics, telling CNN that he would never vote for Paul.
“I think Ron Paul’s views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American,” Gingrich said. “Now, that’s going to be very controversial, but I just suggest to people, read the newsletters.”
Jon Huntsman is also attacking Paul over the newsletters in a new web video, but as the video’s title, “Unelectable,” indicates the attack isn’t so much on the substance of the publication so much as its political implications.
Despite the wave of anti-Paul attacks, candidates still seem wary of outright declaring him beyond the bounds of mainstream politics. In a CNN interview on Wednesday, Romney repeated his longstanding assertion that he would vote for Paul over President Obama.
“I don’t agree with a lot of things Ron Paul says,” Romney said, but “I believe we would be able to move him in a direction that’s more productive.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.