Ron Paul: In for the Long Haul

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First
they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you,
then you win.”
~
Mahatma Gandhi

“The
presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high
school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize.”
~
Saul Bellow

About Ron
Paul’s Fundraising

On July 15th,
the Federal Election Commission announced the 2nd-quarter fundraising
totals for each presidential candidate. In the Republican field,
Ron Paul’s $2.4 million placed him:

  • 3rd
    in total receipts for the quarter
  • 4th
    in total receipts to date
  • 3rd
    in total current assets (ahead of former front-runner John McCain,
    and just $800,000 behind Mitt Romney)

Thus far, 47%
of the contributions
made to Ron Paul’s campaign are donations
of under $200 from individuals (John McCain’s 17% is the second-highest
percentage). This is a telling statistic, as it highlights the fact
that most other candidates rely heavily upon donations from corporate
interests and political action committees (PACs) (i.e. moneyed, influence-seeking
sources who can readily afford to contribute large sums). Since Congressman
Paul has always voted against special favors and privileges for anyone,
special interests know they have nothing to gain by stuffing Ron Paul’s
campaign coffers. As one member of my local Meetup group put it on
a home-made sign, “Ron Paul is thin because he won’t let special interests
buy him lunch.”

Among all
candidates, Dr. Paul is now first
in total donations from military personnel and veterans. While this
may come as a surprise to some, Tom Engelhardt identified the primary
reason when he asked rhetorically, “why should (military personnel)
want to be endlessly redeployed to a lost war in a lost land?” (see
Why
the US Military Loves Ron Paul
).

Why, indeed
– President Paul would bring them home now.

The Ron
Paul Buzz

As anyone
familiar with the Ron Paul campaign knows, official fundraising
figures tell only a small part of the story. This campaign is a
genuine grassroots movement, driven primarily by the independent
efforts of Dr. Paul’s enthusiastic supporters – a wide-ranging
constituency that includes disenfranchised anti-war Democrats, traditional
conservatives, Constitutionalists, anti-corporatists, free traders,
libertarians, Christians, Hindus, atheists, druids, hobbits, wizards,
and a host of others. Although a seemingly disparate group, these
people share a genuine concern about America’s ongoing slide toward
authoritarianism, empire, and bankruptcy.

This building
wave of support takes many forms – from the proliferation of
Ron Paul Web sites,
blogs,
and merchandise,
to public "banner brigades" and pamphleteering, to private
conversations and e-mail threads – and some estimates assess
the economic value of these independent activities at more than
$10
million
per quarter.

No candidacy
has generated more buzz than Ron Paul’s, and the following statistics
prove the point:

  • “Ron Paul”
    recently topped Technorati’s
    search-term rankings for an unprecedented stretch – current
    rank #2 (Technorati is
    the leading authority on Internet media usage).
  • RonPaul2008.com
    draws more traffic than any other candidate’s Web site.
  • On YouTube.com,
    the Internet’s most popular video site, the Ron Paul channel has
    over 22,000
    subscribers, which is 13,000
    more than the second most popular candidate (Obama).
  • And on Meetup.com,
    more than 25,000 people comprise 560 Ron Paul Meetup groups, which
    makes the Good Doctor the most popular
    Meetup
    source in the political category. The next candidate,
    Obama, is a distant second with 5300 members in 68 groups.

    Notes:
    All statistics reflect current numbers as of July 23, 2007.
    Also, for those who don’t know, Meetup.com is the most popular
    Internet site for people with common interests who want to organize
    events and activities with one another – consequently,
    it’s the most commonly used online resource for coordinating
    political activities.

Some commentators
say this interest and support is illusory, perhaps even the product
of a centralized Internet effort led by the Ron Paul campaign. Yet,
the Paul campaign has only spent $600,000 to date, while other candidates
have already burned through tens
of millions
. Although Paul’s campaign staff is growing, it doesn’t
even have the resources to provide timely responses to the flood of
incoming e-mails (I speak from personal experience here), much less
oversee such a sustained, widespread, technologically-sophisticated
endeavor.

The skeptics
also ignore an obvious question – if it’s so easy to jerry-rig
Internet statistics, why haven’t other, better-financed campaigns
done the same? (Answer:
It’s not easy and, in many cases, it’s simply impossible.)
While I personally don’t know of anyone who spends their time spamming
online polls or repeatedly Googling their favorite candidate’s name,
I have no doubt such people exist in the ranks of most political
movements. And given the evident enthusiasm of Ron Paul supporters,
it’s quite likely that a greater percentage of his backers might
attempt to do such things.

That said,
I believe there are more plausible reasons for Ron Paul’s “online
success” – most importantly, the Internet is the primary source
of information about Dr. Paul. As early as last fall – two
full years before the election – the conventional media
and major-party establishments had already anointed the top six
Republican and Democratic candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney,
Clinton, Obama, & Edwards). Since then, countless opinion makers
have informed Americans that these six politicians complete the
list of "viable" Presidential options. In other words,
no need to look further – we’ve done your thinking for you.

How and why
this happened exactly is a topic for another day. (Hint – Follow
the
money.) The important
point here is that each of the Anointed Candidates has received
regular, daily coverage since that time (and, in some cases, for
several years now). Although Dr. Paul has benefited from a smattering
of media attention since his "blowback" exchange with
Giuliani in May, people who are curious about Paul’s track record
and platform must turn to the Internet. The conventional
media is most unlikely to begin covering Dr. Paul on a regular basis,
no matter how much traction he gains.

Consequently,
Ron Paul’s supporters must assume the task of spreading the word.
Fortunately, many of us are happy to do so, and when people first
learn of Dr. Paul’s track record, they typically want to know more.
As regular readers of my
blog
know, Ron Paul challenges US foreign policy on a refreshingly
honest and fundamental level – a level of inquiry wholly absent
from most political forums. And Dr. Paul’s forthrightness doesn’t
stop with foreign policy, as he applies the same intellectual rigor
to issues involving civil
liberties
, health
care
, immigration,
education,
our fiat-money
system
, and so on.

Reading
Tea Leaves

Now, I’m not
a political analyst, and things could certainly change in a hurry
– but given the current landscape, some future developments
seem rather predictable:

First,
Ron Paul’s Jeffersonian liberalism will give him a significant advantage
over his pro-war, neoconservative competitors. While the other candidates
vie for the support of the modern Republican base, Ron Paul provides
the only real alternative for any traditional conservatives who
remain in the party. Without Ron Paul, each GOP debate would be
a brain-dead echo chamber.

Perhaps
more importantly, Dr. Paul will appeal to those Americans who
long ago abandoned politics because the big-government statism
of the two major parties was hostile to their values. With recent
voter turnout in presidential elections hovering around 50%, this
may be a surprisingly large block of potential voters. For Ron
Paul supporters, the key will be finding these people and telling
them about Dr. Paul – a simple, mass-marketing numbers game.

Second,
due to this ideological edge and campaign realities, we’ll witness
a steady whittling of the Republican field in coming months –
a thinning that recently began with Jim Gilmore’s exit from the
race. With the exception of Ron Paul, the other candidates have
spent their funds like drunken
Congressmen
, and the "second tier" has little to
show for their binge. Most of these campaigns suffer from anemic
fundraising, a moribund Internet presence, and lackluster crowds
(certainly nothing approaching the numerous crowds gathering on
Ron Paul’s behalf, as documented here,
here,
here, here,
here, and
here). By
next spring, the existing field of contenders will be reduced
to a Final Four – Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and
Ron Paul.

Third,
Ron Paul is in this race for the long haul – at least until
next September’s Republican convention. Thus far, the Paul campaign
has run a frugal operation, relying primarily on the efforts of
grassroots activists. These efforts are steadily snowballing support,
as evidenced by Dr. Paul’s three-month ascent from anonymity to
3% in national
polls
, and that figure will continue to rise at the rate people
learn about our candidate. As Jennifer
Haman
pointed out, Ron Paul leads in the polls of those who
have heard him speak. In the meantime, the campaign is shrewdly
storing its dry powder – mounting millions to be meted out
at judicious points throughout the campaign.

Only time will
tell what the future holds for Ron Paul’s presidential bid –
but for now, there’s great cause for optimism.

July
27, 2007

Scott
G. Sutton, MA, MCP, CMFC [send
him mail
] is a technical writer in Portland, Oregon, and a long-time
admirer of Dr. Paul’s candor, integrity, and efforts on behalf of
individual liberty. This piece originally appeared on Mr.
Sutton’s blog
, where he touts Ron Paul’s track record on the
Iraq War and US foreign policy.

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