For a so-called "second tier" (or sometimes, more derisively, "third tier") candidate, Representative Ron Paul of Texas gets some pretty good publicity, as well as serious attention, with regard to his quest for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.
Take Saturday's Washington Post, which put Ron Paul on the front page -- admittedly below the fold, but next to a big story about how the Jefferson Memorial may be sinking into Washington's primordial ooze, which is open to much symbolic interpretation in itself -- that highlights his campaign's dominance of the Internet:
Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).The article, by Jose Antonio Vargas, summarizes Dr. Paul's political philosophy as succinctly as possible:
Vargas quotes political insiders about the meaning of Dr. Paul's ascendancy in cyberspace:
"I'm for the individual," Paul said. "I'm not for the government."
One has to read to the last paragraph of the piece, however, to discover why Ron Paul's support on the Internet is so vociferous and dedicated. One supporter is offered as an example, referring back to the "attractive argument" noted by Terence Jeffrey:
"At first I was skeptical of his increasing online presence, thinking that it's probably just a small cadre of dedicated Ron Paul fans," said Matt Lewis, a blogger and director of operations at Townhall, a popular conservative site. "But if you think about it, the number one issue in the country today is Iraq. If you're a conservative who supports the president's war, you have nine candidates to choose from. But if you're a conservative who believes that going into Iraq was a mistake, Ron Paul is the only game in town."
Added Terry Jeffrey, the syndicated newspaper columnist who ran Patrick J. Buchanan's failed White House bid in 1996: "On domestic issues like spending and taxation and the role of government, Ron Paul is saying exactly what traditional conservatives have historically thought, and he's pointing out that the Bush administration has walked away from these principles. That's a very attractive argument."
In the long run, changing the national conversation is much more important than winning a given election. Just ask anyone who worked on Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign.
The 28-year-old Carnegie Mellon student donated $50 to Paul's coffers after the first debate, and an additional $50 after the third debate.
"For a poor college student, that's a lot," said Porter, a lifelong Republican. "But I'm not supporting him because I think he could get the nomination. I'm supporting him because I think he can influence the national conversation about what the role of government is, how much power should government have over our lives, how much liberty should we give up for security. These are important issues, and frankly, no one's thinking about them as seriously and sincerely as Ron Paul."