Published December 28, 2011
For months, Ron Paul was by turns ignored, tolerated and occasionally even praised by his opponents in the Republican presidential race.
But with the libertarian-leaning candidate surging to the front of the field in Iowa with less than a week to go before the caucuses, Paul's extensive record of outside-the-GOP-mainstream comments and views is coming under withering attack by his competitors.
While some of his fellow Republicans have practically adopted his unwavering criticism of the Federal Reserve and Washington's spending habits over the course of the campaign, they are picking apart other aspects of his record -- in particular singling out his foreign policy views as dangerously isolationist.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who mostly had stayed away from commenting on Paul's campaign, took a swipe Wednesday at the Texas congressman's hands-off attitude toward Iran's nuclear program.
"The greatest threat that Israel faces, and frankly the greatest threat that the world faces, is a nuclear Iran. ... We have differing views on this," Romney said at a cafe in Muscatine, Iowa. "Actually one of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose numbers in Iowa have dropped precipitously while Paul's have climbed, has emerged as one of the Texas congressman's toughest critics in the closing days of the Iowa blitz.
Asked Tuesday whom he would vote for if left with a choice between Paul and President Obama, Gingrich bucked Republicans' typical anybody-but-Obama answer, calling that a "very hard choice."