Ron Paul: Past, Present, and Prospects


Micah Cohen writing at the blog usually written by* Nate Silver, king of political numbers at the New York Times, gets around to doing a comprehensive overall comparison along the lines of what eager fans at the Daily Paul have been documenting for many months on a state-by-state basis: comparative number charts of Ron Paul's success this year compared to his 2008 run.

What's happened is, Paul's total has him getting 196 percent of the votes that he got in 2008 (and 225 percent of the votes if you only look at caucus states, where Paul's campaign tended to concentrate). **(Numbers corrected from first posting, in which I mistakenly referred to those as the percentage by which he had increased his totals compared to 2008.) His share of the total vote, with strong competition lasting a long time, only climbed 6 percent.   increased by six percentage points, from 4 percent to 10 percent.

Silver Cohen also cobbles together a 2008 vs. 2012 fundraising comparison for Paul's campaign, where it is merely holding its own, not increasing–in fact, even shrinking by around $350 thousand through the end of February, if only donation to the actual campaign, not Super PACs, is counted. In both years, over $34 million was collected by Paul's campaign.

This could be spun as a sign of stagnation. But in my read, given Paul's nearly complete lack of electoral success last time and the very quick revelation that, in terms of actually winning primaries or straw polls, he wasn't really doing any better in 2012, it's a revelation that his fan base didn't feel exhausted and discouraged after 2008. Even lacking the golden magic of something new on the rise, the Paul people have again given the campaign over $34 million. I think that is a sign of the movement's continued strength and relevance. 

Silver Cohen concludes that 

 in campaigns, money is raised to win votes, and Mr. Paul has won many more votes in 2012. What accounts for his success? It is possible that Mr. Paul has simply run a better campaign. But the more likely explanation is that the mood of the country is more aligned to Mr. Paul's views than it was in 2008.

Politico this weekend surveyed another sign of the Paul movement's future, the many announced and prospective GOP candidates inspired by Paul, in a piece called "Ron Paul's Baby Boom." The key bits:

There's no exact way of measuring how many Paul-inspired candidates are running this year. But Jared Paine, a Paul supporter who operates a website that tracks the campaigns of libertarian-minded candidates, said he counted around two dozen active Paul backers who are running for House or Senate seats and another 200 or so who are seeking local offices — almost all of them running as Republicans….

Many of the candidates have sought to tap into the energy surrounding Paul's presidential campaign. John Dennis, a San Francisco Republican looking to unseat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, has spoken at Paul rallies and cut a Web video urging voters to support Paul prior to the Iowa caucuses. Florida Senate candidate Mirand Sharma, who has worked as a Paul organizer, has sought to recruit campaign volunteers from among those who also support the congressman. Missouri hopeful Jason Greene, who is running for a House seat, has vigorously promoted his candidacy on Paul-focused online bulletin boards.

To hear those aligned with the GOP presidential candidate tell it, the proliferation of Paul-affiliated candidates underscores a simple truth: Paul, once regarded as a fringe candidate, has gone mainstream….

The rise of the Paul babies also reflects the increasingly central role of the Internet in political organizing. Paul's grass-roots supporters have become known for their extensive use of the Web to promote the congressman, establishing sites like the Daily Paul and Ron Paul Forums to bring like-minded activists together. In recent months, Paul's supporters have also begun using those online bulletin boards to promote their own candidacies…..

Christopher David, a 25-year-old Web consultant who worked on Paul's 2008 campaign and is now running for a Los Angeles-area congressional seat, said Paul supporters recognized that his presidential campaign was coming to an end and were looking for a new avenue to express their support for him.

Ron Paul's rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired

"There are a lot of people around the country and the world who identify with the things Ron Paul is saying," said David, who highlights his work for Paul on his campaign website. "As the presidential campaign winds down, he's going to have to pass the baton — and I don't think it should be to just one person."

But being a Paulite is by no means a guarantee you can even get an insurgent campaign off the ground:

Paul activist Dan Stojadinovic, announced last fall on the Ron Paul Forums website that he intended to run for Senate in Florida.

"My plan is to go around Florida and speak about Liberty," Stojadinovic wrote. "The bad part is that I have no clue what to do so I need some help with paperwork first and understanding the process. I think I can speak well and promote Ron Paul and liberty but don't understand the mechanics of the process right now."

A few months later, Stojadinovic said on his website that he was aborting his bid. "Due to the lack of public donations and other needed political support such as media access, the campaign is unable to function and is in a state of suspension," he wrote.

Changing American political culture is a long, long game, but the ripples from Paul's 2008 and 2012 races will play a big part in the only change that can actually preserve a nation bankrupt from overreachign foreign and domestic policy. For the story of the roots and rise of this movement, look for my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

*Thanks commenter Joe M. for correcting this point. The post originally credited the blog entry to Nate Silver himself.