Monessen Valley Independent, PA 11-11-07

Monessen Valley Independent, PA
Ron Paul breaks into the light as freedom warrior
By David M. Brown
DES MOINES -- It used to be easy to portray Republican presidential hopeful
Ron Paul as a quixotic champion of a hopeless cause.
But Don Quixote never raised $4.2 million in a single day.
The parody of someone tilting at windmills hardly fits now that Paul is raising
serious amounts of campaign cash. He's using it to fortify grassroots efforts in the
important early caucus state of Iowa and to buy TV ads in New Hampshire and
other key battleground states.
The Green Tree native who garnered just 432,000 votes in 1988, when he ran for
president as a Libertarian, has 100,000 volunteers today.
"They say there is a revolution going on, and it looks like it's run by young
people," Paul, 72, said at recent campus rally in Iowa. "All of a sudden, there is a
whole generation of people that are very excited about the message of freedom."
The soft-spoken physician, a 10-term Texas congressman, has built his quest for
the presidency on far-ranging pledges. They include abolishing the income tax,
pulling out of the United Nations, promptly bringing the troops home from Iraq
and other corners of the world, and dismantling much of the federal government
not rooted in a conservative interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Unlike the fictional Quixote, who faded quietly into his idealistic dreams, Paul
awoke one day during this campaign and found himself at the helm of what his
army of supporters is calling a revolution.
The impact an underdog such as Paul might have on the race for the 2008 GOP
presidential nomination is debatable. The first primaries take place early next
year, and he still shows single-digit support in national polls. But the energy of
the Ron Paul revolution is no longer in question.
"His supporters are as enthusiastic as any on the Republican side this year,"
says Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia.
Paul raised eyebrows when he reported campaign contributions of $5.3 million
from July to September -- matching the amount collected by U.S. Sen. John
McCain of Arizona. Then in just one day last week, on Monday, the Paul
campaign brought in $4.2 million during a 24-hour Internet drive. He has raised
$7.5 million toward his goal of $12 million by Dec. 31.
Paul, who graduated from the former Dormont High School in 1953, said his
campaign didn't invent the revolution theme. It originated with supporters and
spread on the Web. Now it defines the campaign's central message.
"He's the first candidate in my lifetime that's really been for limited government,"
said Eric Cooper, 41, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State
University. Cooper helped announce a Paul rally at the campus by wearing a
sandwich-board and colonial-era hat and carrying an early American flag.
"I wear the three-corner hat because Ron Paul's philosophy is that of the
Founding Fathers, so it's rooted in the 18th century," he said, "but I've got the
futuristic sunglasses to show that it's still a modern philosophy that will work
Analysts say it is unrealistic to expect Paul to win the nomination over such wellknown Republicans as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and McCain.
"He's got some very strong, committed supporters who are willing to part with
money to signal their support. Is he going to win? No," Sabato said.
Paul, an obstetrician who delivered more than 4,000 babies, says he has no
intention to run in the general election as an independent or third-party
candidate. But analysts say he could be a force -- on a par with Ralph Nader in
2000 or John Anderson in 1980 -- strong enough to swing the election.
He likely wouldn't get more than 5 percent of the vote, but "5 percent or under in
the right set of states could still tip the outcome," said Bert Rockman, a former
University of Pittsburgh professor who now chairs the political science
department at Purdue University.
MSNBC political analyst Patrick Buchanan, a three-time presidential contender,
said Paul likely would siphon votes from the Republican nominee.
"I think if it were a very close race, he would be held accountable for a
Republican defeat," Buchanan said. "I don't know how it would advance the
causes he believes in, and my guess is he's come to the same conclusion."
On the other hand, Paul's stronger-than-expected role in the Republican race can
send "a message to the party that not everybody's on board on the trade deals
and foreign interventions and these military buildups and confrontation politics,"
Buchanan said.
G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in
Lancaster County, said Paul's anti-establishment, anti-war, Libertarian message
taps into a mood of discontent across the nation. The public is unhappy with both
Congress and President Bush, according to opinion polls that show all-time-low
approval ratings.
But Paul's message doesn't have broad enough appeal in the party to win, and
"at some point he's going to have to decide whether he's a Republican or a
Libertarian," Madonna said.
Paul's backers are aiming for at least a bump in the polls by finishing better than
expected in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and a boost from a strong showing in the
New Hampshire primary later in January.
A Republican Party official in New Hampshire says it's possible that Paul could
finish as high as third or fourth in the Granite State's GOP primary.
"He would be ahead of some of the better-known candidates, and that would
have an impact on those campaigns," said Fergus Cullen, the state Republican
chairman. "His message is quite clear. If you are an anti-establishment, a 'poxon-all-you-guys' kind of voter, then Ron Paul's your guy. There's not an
insignificant number of such voters in New Hampshire."
And there's a small segment of anti-war Republicans that Paul "has all to
himself," Cullen added.
If Paul does well in New Hampshire, more attention from the national news
media and pundits would follow, said Tom Kawczynski, 26, of Bellevue, the Paul
campaign's Pennsylvania coordinator.
"We have the money and the resources to compete for the whole of the primary
season and we intend to," said Kawczynski, who organized a rally in Philadelphia
where Ron Paul appeared Saturday. "We're bringing new people into the party
and into the movement because it is something that transcends traditional
political identifications."
The rally at Independence Mall drew about 4,000 people and was the largest
rally to date, organizers said.
Lew Moore, Paul's national campaign manager, told supporters at recent rallies
in Iowa that the campaign is catching fire. More than 100,000 volunteers, many
of whom learned of Paul's campaign in Internet "meet up" groups, are working to
"take our country back."
"This is not a second-tier, third-tier campaign anymore," he said.
Paul doesn't need to place first or second in Iowa to be a winner, said Paul's
Iowa campaign manager, Drew Ivers, who headed Pat Roberston's campaign in
Iowa in 1988 and Buchanan's Iowa campaigns in 1996 and 2000. "Third place
would be wonderful. The expectations are not high. So if we can beat
expectations, that's how you define victory."
"There's a need for a nonviolent revolution in our country, and I think a lot of
other people feel the same way," said Kinsey Brady, 19, a sophomore at Iowa
State University and one of more than 700 supporters, many wearing Ron Paul
Revolution T-shirts, who packed into the student union to hear the candidate
speak at the Ames campus.
Paul is the only Republican seeking the nomination who favors a quick exit from
Iraq. He said it's time for the nation to "give up on nation-building and policing the
world" and bring troops home from places such as Korea. His foreign policy
positions resonated with many, particularly younger supporters, at Iowa rallies.
"I like the majority of his policies," Brady said. "It's not our country's job to police
the world. Our country is going further into debt every day. We're wasting too
much money having our military bases all over the world, and we're wasting too
much money with this war in Iraq."
David M. Brown can be reached at [email protected] or 412-380-5614.