Campaigns/Elections

One Last Sign Wave for Ron Paul Supporters in Boston

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Boston – On Super Tuesday Eve about two dozen Ron Paul supporters are spread out across Dewey Square outside South Station in Boston holding a variety of Ron Paul signs and handing out pamphlets to commuters as they hurry to catch their train back to suburbia. Some of the activists engage commuters with Paul literature but most just hold their signs and encourage them to vote for Paul in the primary tomorrow.

This is the final organized Paul campaign event in Massachusetts before Super Tuesday. No phone calls, no canvassing: just holding signs outside of South Station so commuters can read them on their way home.

Joe Ureneck, a member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, said that his group made calls and did some door knocking but that the Dewey Square event helped too. "It's traditional Boston politicking, it's just another part of campaigning," said Ureneck, 60, of Dorchester.  

Sign waving and "sign bombing" are deeply woven into the culture of the Ron Paul movement, in a way that is very different from the campaigns of the remaining Republican candidates. Go to any place in the country that has a Ron Paul MeetUp Group and you are all but guaranteed to find an event listing for a sign wave at some prominent local intersection. It is a tactic that is popular with local campaigns for offices like selectman or school committee, where name recognition is a major issue. It's considered unusual by many for a presidential campaign.

"They have minimal effect on raising the name identification of a particular candidate but Ron Paul's name does not need to be raised anymore among GOP primary voters. They all know who he is. Their focus should not be on name identification because it's probably already 100 percent," said longtime Massachusetts political strategist Rob Willington, a former executive director of the Mass GOP.

Willington was the chief architect of Scott Brown's successful internet campaign in the 2010 special election to fill Ted Kennedy vacant US Senate seat.

"Yard signs are, mostly, a complete waste of time," said Willington.

Another local political consultant, Lenny Alcivar, agreed.

"Yard signs and bumper stickers and signage are more important to volunteers and supporters than to the campaign itself. They are a measure of a campaign's footprint but for the most part they matter more as bragging rights neighbor-to-neighbor than they do in getting votes," said Alcivar.

Another potential problem with the signs used by the Paul supporters is that there are so many different kinds available. Unlike traditional supporters Paul backers have designed a plethora of signs and stickers for other supporters to use, often at their own expense. This has the potential to create a confusing message that may not reflect what the official campaign is trying to do.

"I don't think you can manufacture victory or massive public appeal by putting your resources into those kinds of actions and rallies," said Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College.

At the main entrance of South Station End the Fed Activist and Paul supporter Eric Bickford, 23, was busy handing out flyers to commuters as they were entering. He was not holding a sign but said that he thinks people like that part of campaigning because it is a way for them to feel like they are involved in the campaign.

"It's easy to do. You just stand out and hold a sign. Get people to honk for you, it builds morale. If we want to get votes we need to get out there and door knock and actually talk to people, get face-to-face, door knock," said Bickford, the union carpetner and West Roxbury native.