By Bret Hayworth/Sioux City Journal
ANKENY – A third place finish is enough for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to look ahead in the presidential race.
The Texas Congressman was in a tight three way race with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for much of caucus night. Late in the night, Romney and Santorum pulled just a few percentage points ahead of Paul’s 21 percent.
Paul said there are three tickets out of Iowa to the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary, and he was glad to be in the top three.
“We will go on, we will raise money. I have no doubt about the volunteers, they will be here,” he said to a crowd of about 400, while his son U.S. Sen. Rand Paul stood nearby.
Texas Congressman Paul set his celebration site at the Courtyard Marriott hotel ballroom, which was festooned with blue and silver balloons. He returned to several campaign staples, including his push to return to a gold monetary standard and reduce the U.S. presence militarily.
“The enthusiasm has been unbelievable. It is fantastic, it is national. Thousands of people now have been involved, not only in Iowa but around the country, and they are ready and raring to go,” Paul set.
The earliest ballroom arrivals were young people, and entrance polling by CNN at various Iowa precincts showed Paul led all candidates among people caucusing in the 17-29 age group.
Michelle Gray, 27, of Des Moines caucused for Paul at Norwoodville Elementary School. She wasn’t interested in the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain.
“(Paul) has always been true to his word and he speaks real facts,” she said. She added that she likes the Paul pledge to cut $1 trillion in federal spending in a first year as president.
Jeremy Olson of Des Moines, who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, switched his voter registration from Democrat to Republican to caucus for Paul. He was persuaded by his wife, Jennifer, who used a write-in method to vote for Paul in 2008.
“He is a pole cat, and he stands on principle,” Jeremy Olson said.
Many political observers pointed to the sound Iowa campaign team Paul had in place to deliver a big turnout of supporters Tuesday night.
The lowest caucus winning percentage over 40 years in Iowa has been the 26 percent by Republican Bob Dole.