National Review (and I'll admit I'm surprised) runs an enthusiastic and hopeful "Ron Paul is going to surprise you" piece from frequent reason contributor David Kopel. Kopel witnessed the Ron Paul machine first hand at the Second Amendment Foundation Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) last week and is mightily impressed. Some excerpts:
In 1988, [Ron Paul] was perfectly competent. This time he was electrifying. In 1988, his campaign could do little more than leave some literature on a table. This time, he had volunteers to hand out literature, including (for the recipient audience) devastating material on Romney and Thompson….
Most impressive, however, was the large crowd of young people who showed up to hear Paul's speech. They were enthused and energized….
I did a lot of work in the Gary Hart campaign in 1983-84, while I was at the University of Michigan's Law School. In terms of support from young volunteers, Paul is miles ahead of where Hart was before the Iowa caucus. After Hart finished second in Iowa, and then won New Hampshire, his campaign attracted a huge number of students, but not before. Paul, on the other hand, has what appears to be a staunch contingent of young supporters already.
The volunteers loved Paul's speech, of course, and so did the large majority of the rest of the GRPC crowd. The GRPC activists are very wary of politicians whose pro-gun positions are a matter of convenience or calculation, rather than sincere dedication to the Constitution. The top tier of the Republican field obviously has a problem with candidates whose 2007 positions on guns or other issues are inconsistent with some of their past actions.
….With five million dollars raised in 3Q 2007, it appears that Paul's message is catching on.
In the handful of campaigns that raised more money in the third quarter, some of the donors were engaging in "pay to play"—raising money from their business contacts in order to buy "access" and influence in case the candidate wins. One can be assured, however, that nobody is giving money to Ron Paul in order to buy 2009 "access" to the Executive Branch. They're giving money because they want to eliminate about 90-percent of the federal government's cash and regulatory boodle for rent-seekers……deep down there's still a hunger among much of the Republican base for someone who will shrink the Leviathan, rather than merely attempt to use it for conservative ends.
Like the Ronald Reagan message (and unlike the Pat Buchanan message), the Ron Paul message is fundamentally positive. There may be some anger about the depredations of huge and aggressive government, but the campaign's theme is "Hope for America" and its premise is that the American people are good people who can achieve the best for themselves, their families, their community, and their nation when the federal government gets out of the way and stops behaving like a helicopter mother.
…….Is Paul still a longshot? Yes, but so were George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Gary Hart. It is true that Republicans have, for over half a century, nominated whoever was leading in the first Gallup poll after Labor Day. But the past doesn't control the future. Until 2000, for instance, no-one who had lost the New Hampshire primary had ever won the general election.
Very interestingly, Kopel does not agree with Ron Paul on getting out of Iraq–but he doesn't make a big deal out of it in this almost entirely supportive piece.
If Paul can capture this much regard and affection from other mostly small-government conservative Republicans who aren't with him on the war (though I suspect Kopel is a weird outlier on this) things can get very interesting come primary time.