Newsweek's Andrew Romano has a story out about "long tail candidates" which zeroes in on Ron Paul and features some comments from yours truly and the invaluable Arnold Kling. Snippets:
Paul may still be the longest of long shots. But he's a long shot who can lure 5,000 supporters to his rallies and more than triple his entire '88 war chest in a single $6.6 million day. That's a whole new level of high-passion, low-polling politics-and in a long-tail world, others are bound to follow. "Ron Paul is the harbinger," says Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of the libertarian magazine Reason. "Just as the major entertainment companies are producing far more varied and individualized fare, I think we're going to see more and more political candidates who are more interesting in and of themselves but deliver smaller and smaller numbers."…
Over the decades, Americans have become increasingly unhappy about having to cram themselves into one of two "big box" parties. Seven of the last 10 elections were won with less than 51 percent of the vote; in three of the last four, no candidate won a majority. Today, two thirds of U.S. adults (and a full three quarters of 18- to 30-year olds) say they would consider voting for an independent candidate in the next election. The rise of Howard Dean (another anti-establishment Web phenom) and the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis mirrored this breakdown of consensus; 2008's fragmented Republican field is further proof. "The long tail is not the political center," economist Arnold Kling has said. "It is not a third party waiting to form. It is not a coalition. It is not a 'silent majority' of either the right or left. It is simply every variety of political belief that does not fit within the two major parties." As the Web allows niche voters to form communities, raise money and get heard, it's inevitable that the major-party machines will clash with-and ultimately accommodate-the individualized constituencies they're struggling to serve….
Gillespie argues the reward is a more responsive government. "Being just a Republican or just a Democrat no longer gets at what people are about," he says. "In order for a Mitt Romney to gain traction in a traditional party, he's going to have to mine the more marginal candidates for ideas and support." Paulites, take heart. Sadly, the gold standard isn't coming back. But the days of "not having the opportunity to get the message out"? Those are gone for good, too.