There is no question that the GOP primary season has been made up of a long string of scandals and gaffes. Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have all enjoyed frontrunner status for several weeks since the Ames straw poll in August. All, perhaps save Bachmann, have sustained the attacks and magnified gaffes that come with frontrunner status. Ron Paul has settled in just behind the frontrunners in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He is in the sweet spot of the polls where he may be able to avoid heavy attacks at least until after Iowa and maybe until after New Hampshire. By that point he will already have solid performances in both states under his belt.
If Gingrich would attack Paul as he is statistically tied it could backfire on Gingrich because according to the most recent PPP poll Gingrich's unfavorables are high with Paul supporters(35% compared to Perry's 10%), meaning Gingrich would not likely gain supporters from attacks on Paul.
While those lagging far behind in the polls, namely Perry and Bachmann don't want to attack Paul and run the risk of a resounding Gingrich victory in Iowa which would crush their hopes of making it out of Iowa with any reasonable amount of cash.
The goal here for Gingrich is likely to weather the Paul storm through New Hampshire. He will play down a Paul win or close second in Iowa and ignore a strong showing from Paul in New Hampshire. Gingrich is blessed in that he will have the mainstream media on his side when it comes to these tactics. Many pundits are already setting the bar high for Paul in Iowa but qualifying it as a one-off victory. The thing that Gingrich will not be able to spin is the mounds of cash in Paul's war chest leaving Iowa and New Hampshire.
Romney has to be hoping for a strong Paul victory in Iowa and a strong Paul second to his victory in New Hampshire to quiet the Gingrich momentum going into South Carolina and Florida where Gingrich, as of now, is likely to do well.
Nobody is sure what a broad scale attack on Ron Paul looks like in a Presidential primary because it has never happened. It could end up being a form of asymmetrical warfare that results in unintended consequences. The first thing it would do is completely legitimize Paul, something his opponents have been desperately avoiding, and entrench his army of supporters.
The wild card is that attacks are launched at Ron Paul from outside of the parameters of the campaign as it happened on a small scale in 2008. Those attacks however were perceived as desperate political attacks from the mainstream media and did not stop the eventual rise of Ron Paul that we are witnessing today.
The problem that Ron Paul's opponents have is that Paul is rising despite years of attempts at demonizing Paul by the GOP establishment and the media. The attacks have ranged from the "blame America first" line to the "he wants to legalize all drugs, even heroin" line. Now that the voters have become acquainted with Paul on Paul's terms those attacks simply do not stick.
About the Author: Andy is a graduate student who lives in Milwaukee.