Wait… Ron Paul is Running for President?


Drudge gives a traffic-driving link to Garance Franke-Ruta's short Washington Post story on the continuing Ron Paul campaign. The shocking headline: "Paul Campaign Never Ended, Spokesman Says."

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) told supporters in early March, through a Web video, that he knew he was no longer in the running for the presidency, and aides said his campaign would be "winding down." But it turns out Paul never stopped running for president.

"He put out a video in which he said victory in the conventional sense was not available to us, but there was still much the campaign could try to accomplish," Ron Paul 2008 spokesman Jesse Benton said yesterday. "People in the press reported that as him dropping out when he was not dropping out."

So… shouldn't the campaign spokesman have, uh, corrected them? Paul hinted that he was dropping out twice. On February 9 he announced he was refocusing on his House re-election bid, a move interpreted as a strategic retreat to prevent Chris Peden from making the presidential bid an issue. Because it happened so soon after Dennis Kucinich completely quit the presidential race to save his House seat, the national press assumed that Paul was out. We got press releases, on the presidential campaign press release list, about endorsements in the 14th District.

The primary came, Paul won, and he made another cryptic statement about "winding down" the race. Was he just stating the facts, admitting that he'd shrunken his staff? Yes, he was. But the campaign basically let press and reporters report that Paul was quitting. It's not like they were caught unaware by reporters not caring about the campaign. I remember the press conference after the Dec. 16 moneybomb, where less than 10 reporters crowded a room built for 50 at the National Press Club to listen to Paul's financial team. (The Iowa press conference with the candidate himself was just as thinly attended.) The campaign didn't exactly get caught unaware by national reporters not taking the time to follow up, one-by-one, on a lengthy and opaque video where the candidate mutters Maoisms like "the campaign for freedom will continue in this new phase."

This had an effect on support. I was startled by how many people at Paul's Pennsylvania rallies actually thought he'd left the race, even after speeches where he talked about staying in the race. I wasn't startled when the campaign's last finance report showed monthly fundraising drying up. Now, Paul's doing so well with under-the-radar campaign work that all of this stuff starts to take on an air of cunning: Maybe if Paul was in the news, generic Republican voters wouldn't be about to give primary victories to two candidates he's endorsed in North Carolina, Walter Jones and B.J. Lawson. (One Paul ally joked to me over the weekend that the 16 percent Pennsylvania vote suggests "that Ron's biggest mistake was not 'ending' the campaign in November.")