Long-shot Paul basks in his online fundraising coup

Times Staff Writer

He may be pushed to the edge of the stage, literally and figuratively, when the candidates debate. He languishes in the low single digits in polls.

But Rep. Ron Paul is getting his moment in the sun in his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination after this week’s formidable online fundraising -- a reported $4.2 million in a single day.

The Texas congressman with the sharp libertarian bent thanked his supporters Wednesday for what is one of the best single-day fundraising totals in presidential campaign history. He insisted the event is not an anomaly but a sign of real progress, a claim supported by several Web commentators.


“Amazing! I have to admit being floored by the $4.2 million you raised yesterday for this campaign,” Paul wrote to his supporters, adding: “What momentum we have! Please help me keep it up. As you and I know, and our opponents are only suspecting, we have success on our minds and in our hearts.”

Assuming the fundraising pledges are fulfilled, the total would nearly match Paul’s receipts for the entire previous quarter and put him well on the way to his goal of $12 million for the final three months of 2007. About half of the 36,672 donors (average contribution $103) were giving for the first time.

Mainstream political commentators continued to give Paul -- who advocates an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education -- little or no chance of winning the Republican nomination.

But several commentators said the ability to raise so much money so quickly had enhanced his credibility and would force other candidates and the media to take Paul seriously.

“This is the single biggest example of people-power this [election] cycle,” wrote Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the liberal-leaning website the Daily Kos. “And as annoying as it is that we’re seeing it from a Republican -- and a crazy one at that -- it’s nevertheless a beautiful thing to behold.” commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote that the Paul campaign had become “a bona fide phenomenon of real significance.”


Greenwald argued that Paul was catching on with people “hungry for a political movement which operates outside of our rotted political establishment and which fearlessly rejects its pieties, even if they disagree with some or even many of its particulars.”

Paul’s call for a reduction of the federal government and a reliance on the principles of the Constitution meets a particularly receptive audience online, said Michael Cornfield, an associate research professor at George Washington University.

“This idea of ‘Don’t Tread on Us,’ we can fix things, we do just great on our own, creating wealth and knowledge for the world is very much part of the Silicon Valley, Internet ethic,” Cornfield said. “And Ron Paul’s philosophy jibes with that better than any other candidates.”

Paul had established a formidable Internet following even before Tuesday’s fundraising coup.

He has substantially more supporters on MySpace and Facebook -- two social networking sites -- than any other Republican. His videos have been viewed more often (nearly 5.9 million times) on YouTube than those of any other candidate, of either party.

Like many Internet advances, this week’s fundraising bonanza was powered by Paul supporters rather than by his paid campaign staff.


Trevor Lyman, a 37-year-old Florida music promoter, conceived the idea of a single-day fundraiser on Nov. 5. That date was pegged to Guy Fawkes Day, which celebrates a failed attempt to blow up the British Parliament in 1605 -- a symbolic tie-in to Paul’s minimal-government views.

Another online fundraising pitch next month will be centered around the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and Bill of Rights Day.

“Ron Paul is in the Internet’s sweet spot for politics,” wrote Micah L. Sifry on techpresident .com. “That is, he is a remarkable candidate, with a clear message that the mainstream media has been ignoring.”

Opinions are mixed as to how much of an impact Paul can have in early-primary states. The chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Fergus Cullen, told the National Journal’s “Hotline” that the congressman “has a shot at shaking up the GOP contest,” particularly because of the strong antiwar sentiment in the state.

Paul is most likely to do better in states where independents can vote in the Republican primary, said Eric L. Davis, a political science professor at Middlebury College in Vermont.

“He will get support from people who mostly aren’t Republicans -- people who are strongly antiwar, people who are for legalizing marijuana, tax protesters and the like,” Davis said.


But Davis predicted that Paul would still have to fight to get to 5%, even in New Hampshire, which allows independents to vote in the primaries.


Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this report.