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Crazy Is Not Taking Ron Paul Seriously

Given his campaign coffers and devout following, it's lunacy to dismiss this GOP candidate.
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Articles about Ron Paul and his presidential campaign almost always take one of two stances: Either he's wacky or his supporters are wacky.

The most

recent piece comes from Stuart Rothenberg, who writes the Rothenberg Political Report. Rothenberg argues that Paul's wackiness proves both Paul and the Internet's effects on politics need to be ignored. Rothenberg is wrong on both counts.

Rothenberg notices that the Republican congressman from Texas raised lots of money in a single day and received national headlines. Few reporters had written about Paul before then. Despite the shock of Paul's success, Rothenberg downplays the amount of money raised, comparing it to the gobs of money that big hitters like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani have raised.

But the parallel proves poor. Those are major candidates with strong national profiles who can easily tap into key fundraising networks. Professional fundraisers hold events in major cities where big donors line up to give the maximum of $2,300 per person.

This is not how Paul's campaign has raised money. The campaign has given supporters the freedom to do what they want. Supporters have used the Internet to build a grass-roots following. His support is organic.

In fact, the idea for the big Nov. 5 online fundraiser didn't begin with the campaign at all. It came from several Paul enthusiasts who organized it and brought it to fruition. It was a success only because of the intersection of the candidate and the Internet. On that day, more than 35,000 donors gave to the campaign online, and a record of $4.3 million dollars was raised. This would be a great day for any campaign.

In fact, Paul's fundraising has improved every quarter. According to the

Center for Responsive Politics, he raised more than $500,000 in the first quarter, $2.5 million in the second and $5.2 million in the third quarter. The campaign is expected to double its third-quarter earnings by the end of this quarter. Paul's campaign Web site shows more than $9.3 million already, and more than a month remains before the end of the quarter.

The campaign's fourth-quarter goal is $12 million. If the campaign hits this number, it would exceed anything gained by any of the Republicans in all of the third quarter (I'm excluding Mitt Romney because of his personal donations to his own campaign). Paul's total for the year would then exceed $20 million, almost exclusively from individuals. How can anyone say with a straight face he doesn't have support?

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This money will greatly help the campaign. Paul has been adding staff members and buying more political ads in early states. Paul's poll numbers have been going up in New Hampshire and will be helped by the fact that voters can cross party lines. Paul will have more cash on hand to run ads than either Mike Huckabee or John McCain. I wouldn't even be surprised if he surpasses the amount of money raised by Fred Thompson.

Paul has also done quite well in straw polls across the country. You can check his record on his campaign

Web site. Rothenberg criticizes Paul for doing poorly in the polls in both Iowa and Texas, but this is cherry-picking. Paul had only visited Iowa three times before the poll there in August -- the least of any candidate -- yet he still finished fifth, with many voters switching to vote for him. Paul has won many other straw polls.

It is true that Paul has yet to have the successful poll numbers seen by Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Some polls have Huckabee in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney, and an upset may be brewing in the Hawkeye state.

So can we just ignore Paul's impact because of his lack of prominence in the polls? I think not.

Paul attracts many conservatives and independents alike because of his principled positions. He touts liberty and wants limited government that adheres to the Constitution. This can be seen by looking at a few of his positions: on foreign policy (end foreign wars and entanglements like the United Nations), on monetary policy (junk the

Federal Reserve

and return to a gold standard) and domestic policy (eliminate government agencies like the IRS, FBI and CIA).

Are these positions unusual in the current political environment? Sure, but they all represent ideas consistent with a conservative philosophy. The Republican party has struggled mightily for its soul of late because of political expedience. Fiscal conservatives and social conservatives no longer see eye to eye. Karl Rove's drive to develop a permanent majority has foundered, and many conservatives want to remake the party.

Some have found Ron Paul, and so we can't ignore his influence on this election. I early on called him a

dark horse and predicted he would leave a mark on this election. He has whether or not he wins a primary.