If aliens from outerspace got their first look at the Republican presidential primary campaign today, they’d surely want to know about the surging grey-haired up-and-comer. No, not Newt Gingrich—though the former Speaker of the House from Georgia, who lost much of his campaign team to Rick Perry back when the Texas governor’s grass was greener, swiped back an endorser from Perry today. Nope, it’s Ron Paul, who’s inching towards frontrunner status in the crucial state of Iowa.

As the Houston Chronicle reported, the Lake Jackson Congressman is polling just one percentage point behind Herman Cain (nineteen percent to Cain’s twenty) in Bloomberg’s Iowa caucus poll. Paul also leads everyone but quasi-New Englander Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.

“Can he pull off an upset in Iowa?” Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post asked. The article says yes, in part because the Paul campaign has a solid and longstanding ground game in the state.

That’s a big change in respect from four months ago, when Paul couldn’t buy a headline after finishing second in the Ames straw poll. (Fifth-place finisher Perry, a write-in on that day, got all of the attention.) Even at last Saturday’s CBS News foreign policy debate, Paul got just 89 seconds of screen time, much to his campaign’s displeasure.

But Paul’s speech at the libertarian Cato Institute on Wednesday was treated like a proper policy speech by a proper candidate, especially with the Congressional “supercommittee” also in the news. As US News & World Report noted, Paul predicts that Congress will not follow through on $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts that are supposed to happen automatically over the next ten years (if the committee doesn’t find a way to trim the budget first), because Senator John McCain and others won’t touch the defense budget.

“The sentiment is very strong, both right and left,” Paul said, hitting the notes that have always made him popular with anti-war voters. “They’re obsessed with militarism; they’re obsessed with more wars; they’re obsessed with our foreign policy.”

The Houston Chronicle‘s coverage of the speech also quoted Paul as saying that he’d cut $1 trillion in one year, not $1.2 trillion in ten years. He also continued to criticize the Federal Reserve. As the Post’s Henderson wrote, “Paul’s fingerprints have been all over the policies that have been outlined by his rivals, including Rick Perry . . .”

Still not interested? One of Paul’s online supporters thinks that you should get a look at two “articulate and gorgeous RP activists [who] tell it like it is!”