November 6, 2007

Ron Paul's Very Big Day

Say what you will about Ron Paul and his supporters, but they know how to raise money. Using Guy Fawkes and the movie V For Vendetta as a questionable hook for a fundraiser, Paul's campaign took in over $4 million in a single day -- and without spending hardly any money at all, except transaction fees. That surpasses Mitt Romney's impressive launch day, and comes close to Hillary Clinton's record of $6.2 million for a one-day total (via Memeorandum):

On Monday, a group of Paul supporters helped raised more than $4.07 million in one day — approaching what the campaign raised in the entire last quarter — through a Web site called, a reference to the day the British commemorate the thwarted bombing.

Many fans of Mr. Paul know of the day primarily through a movie based on the futuristic graphic novel “V for Vendetta,” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, in which a terrorist modeled after Fawkes battles a fascist government that has taken over Britain.

The Paul campaign has raised more than $6.84 million in the first five weeks of this quarter, more than the $5 million it raised from July 1 to Oct. 1. Many of the contributions appeared to come through the independent Fawkes effort, but how much was unclear.

On Monday alone, the campaign signed up more than 21,000 new donors, said Jesse Benton, a campaign spokesman.

Ready to take Paul seriously now? His ideas may sound as strange as his high-pitched histrionics in the televised debates, and he may not have much national pull in the polls. However, Paul certainly has some attraction to people with cash through the Internet, and he's amassing a small fortune with almost no overhead just in time for the primaries.

The effort is reminiscent of Howard Dean's candidacy. One important difference is in the polling, of course; before the Dean Scream and Al Sharpton's Iowa takedown, Dean led in both national polling and Internet fundraising. Yesterday showed a clear similarity in grassroots fundraising, especially through the Internet. In this case, it appears to be organic rather than organized -- the campaign itself doesn't seem to have any real connection to the money flowing into it.

What does this tell us? The libertarian impulse may have stronger legs than anyone recognizes. It certainly seems more individually vibrant than the "values voters" segment of the Republican Party, which hasn't even produced a candidate in this election, let alone this kind of impromptu grassroots effort. It could also complicate the primaries if Paul manages to turn this fundraising into actual poll strength.

And, of course, it means we have to hear Paul again in the debates, which will dent all of this marvelous momentum he's generated.

Beyond Paul and his flaws, the Republicans had better start paying attention to these voters. Like it or not, they represent a passion that seems to have left the GOP in recent months, and even if they skew young and may not vote as promised this cycle, they will eventually. Rather than continue to write them off, Republicans have to find a way to address them outside of conspiracy theories and allusions to blowing up buildings.

UPDATE: John Podhoretz wonders whether Ron Paul is the next Ralph Nader, from his new perch at Commentary. I'm not sure I agree, but John makes an interesting case for it.


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