The dawning realization of what a Ron Paul win in the Iowa caucuses would mean for Republicans, Iowa, and the caucuses has apparently begun to dawn on Iowa Republicans.  Politico calls this a “Ron Paul panic,” but it’s actually a bit of an existential crisis:

The alarms are sounding in Iowa.

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. …

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”

What especially worries Iowa Republican regulars is the possibility that Paul could win here on January 3rd with the help of Democrats and independents who change their registration to support the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman but then don’t support the GOP nominee next November.

That’s been precisely the general concern that Republicans have with the primary process, and not just in Iowa.  A number of states allow for open primaries, and since Democrats won’t have a contested primary in this cycle, that could mean a heavy dose of Democrats and independents showing up for both caucuses and primaries.  In most cycles where the GOP has a clear frontrunner, or a clear two-person race, that wouldn’t make much difference.  In this cycle, though, an influx of non-Republicans could make some mischief in key states, including — but not limited to — Iowa.

A Paul win presents a particular issue for Iowa.  They fought this year to keep their prized position in the primaries, and the RNC went to bat for them to keep it.  If the caucuses end up producing Ron Paul — the publisher of a newsletter that for years featured racist statements and lunatic conspiracy theories — as their preferred candidate, it will spell the end of the line for Iowa as the first testing ground of Republican presidential hopefuls.  It will also likely rally the GOP around Mitt Romney as the nominee, being the safest choice and the easiest to rally around in defense of a Paul nomination, especially with Gingrich unable to close the deal in Iowa after bouncing so high up in the polls.

The New York Times takes a closer look at the Paul newsletters today, too, albeit a rather mild look:

A 1992 passage from the Ron Paul Political Report about the Los Angeles riots read, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” A passage in another newsletter asserted that people with AIDS should not be allowed to eat in restaurants because “AIDS can be transmitted by saliva”; in 1990 one of his publications criticized Ronald Reagan for having gone along with the creation of the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which it called “Hate Whitey Day.”

The magazine article largely matched a similar report in The New Republic in 2008, and it was written by the same author, James Kirchick. The passages were plucked from a variety of newsletters that Mr. Paul’s consulting business published during his years out of Congress, all of them featuring his name: Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Survival Report and Ron Paul Investment Letter.

Mr. Paul did not respond to an interview request, but repudiated the writings in 2008. Likening himself to a major news publisher, he said he did not vet every article that was featured in his newsletters. “I absolutely, honestly do not know who wrote those things,” Mr. Paul said in an interview on CNN at the time, adding that he did not monitor the publications closely because he was busy with a medical practice and “speeches around the country.”

“He did not monitor the publications closely”?  His publishing business employed his family and generated $940,000 in revenues in 1993 alone, as James Kirchick pointed out yet again this week:

Yet a subsequent report by Reason found that Ron Paul & Associates, the defunct company that published the newsletters and which counted Paul and his wife as officers, reported an income of nearly $1 million in 1993 alone. If this figure is reliable, Paul must have earned multiple millions of dollars over the two decades plus of the newsletters’ existence. It is incredible that he had less than an active interest in what was being printed as part of a subscription newsletter enterprise that earned him and his family millions of dollars. Ed Crane, the president of the Cato Institute, said Paul told him that “his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for the Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto.”

How likely would it be that a publisher made a million dollars in revenues from his enterprise, managed to employ his family at the business, and yet never bothered to look at its product?  Zero, even if one buys the argument that Paul allowed other people to ghost-write the newsletter under his own name and in the first person without ever reviewing their output to make sure that it didn’t contradict his own political stands.  And even if people are prepared to swallow all of that, the fact remains that Paul made millions as a publisher peddling vile, racist tracts and insane conspiracy theories, which any Democratic opponent would produce in toto during a general election, even disregarding Team Obama’s predilection for oppo research.

It’s not just the top job that’s at risk, either.  With a man like Paul and his newsletter baggage on a national ticket, how would that help Republicans win Senate and House races around the country?  It’s no wonder that some in the Iowa GOP have begun to “panic,” and it’s probably not limited to Iowa, either.