Washington Post 
Aug 13, 2011
DES MOINES, Iowa — Texas Rep. Ron Paul has long been regarded as a somewhat entertaining distraction in his two presidential races over the past four years.
But, on the eve of the Ames Straw Poll, the first major organizing test of the 2012 Republican presidential race, there is a strain of thinking that Paul could seriously challenge the likes of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for supremacy on Saturday.
“He’s got the supporter passion of a Bachmann with the organization of a Pawlenty,” said one senior Iowa Republican strategist unaffiliated with any of the campaigns. “He builds on 2007 and the caucus last time, and I think he can turn out the 3,000 votes he needs to win.”
The idea of a Paul straw poll victory — while beginning to be discussed more openly — is still far from expected.
Pawlenty has gone all out — organizationally and financially — to make his mark at Ames, recognizing that if he can’t win or come in a very close second it could very well spell the end of his campaign.