Even if he does not win, Paul’s impact on the outcome in Iowa will almost certainly be substantial, despite his reputation for attracting voters who would not otherwise take part in the process.

Though he had shown a willingness to attack other GOP opponents before his broadside against Gingrich, Paul has more or less left Mitt Romney alone. If the race in Iowa remains tight, Paul could become an accidental Romney ally by cutting into Gingrich’s support.

But in a race that has seen as many shifting variables as this one, Paul retains the potential to surprise everyone — especially if Iowa’s particularly inclement weather is a factor on caucus night.

“If there is a snowstorm, Paul wins,” said one state Republican insider.