He’s been the butt of jokes, the focus of derision, and the candidate everyone wished they could ignore. Now he’s the man who outraised most of the second tier in the third quarter, and he wants some respect. Ron Paul took over $5 million in donations, the same as John McCain and much more than Mike Huckabee, who had started to make a case for himself as a first-tier candidate (via Memeorandum):
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, an anti-war libertarian making his second run at the White House, will report having raised $5.08 million in the third quarter. The number, which rivals those of John McCain and Bill Richardson, was boosted thanks to last-minute online fundraising that brought in more than $1.2 million in the last week of the quarter alone.
Paul has drawn himself in sharp contrast with the rest of the field, often engaging in loud exchanges with fellow candidates over his vehement opposition to the war in Iraq. His campaign has been marked by frugal spending and a surprisingly strong online fan base; he routinely wins online straw polls after debates.
Last quarter, Paul made headlines for having more cash on hand than McCain, although that was meant to indicate McCain’s troubles. This time, it shows Paul’s accomplishment. His ability to raise money from an almost exclusively on-line constituency shows some reach.
Will it translate into any kind of widespread support? So far, Paul hasn’t shown any signs of it. His support runs narrow and deep. The Washington Post poll had him at 2%, which is double most of his showings so far. Last month’s Gallup poll had him at 4%, perhaps his best showing. It still puts him far behind Rudy Giuliani just about all of the other Republicans in the polling, and going from a margin-of-error reading to a realistic shot at winning a primary in three months seems like an impossible task.
Still, the ability to raise $5 million shows that he can draft some impressive support. Even if he can’t win a primary, he could start to impact the direction of the race. It may be time to stop laughing at Paul and start thinking about where his support originates, and whether it means anything for the general election.