Will $5 million make Paul more than an asterisk?
News orgs mixed in sizing up GOP candidate's blockbuster fundraising
For much of this year, Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign seemed little more than a distraction -- or annoyance -- to most of his Republican competitors as well as the pundits and journalists covering the 2008 election.
The anti-war libertarian's $5 million fundraising haul in the last three months, though, is forcing campaign observers to sit up and take notice.
"This means Paul cannot be ignored any longer," declared The Note, ABC News' influential daily political tip sheet.
Paul's newfound clout was on full display Thursday afternoon, when he sat down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer for an interview on the Situation Room. It was a far cry from Paul's dorm-room interview several months ago.
"I think the message is popular enough they say, 'Yes we like the idea of freedom, the constitution, limited government, less taxes,'" Paul said explaining his fundraising success. "The numbers are out there. Why it doesn't reflect in the polls, I don't know."
The Texas Republican's third-quarter fundraising puts him just behind onetime frontrunner John McCain, who raised $6 million, and Paul raised five times as much as Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who was treated to a wave of positive exposure after his second-place finish in an Iowa straw poll this summer.
"In New Hampshire, it can carry you a good way in terms of exposure," said Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at University of New Hampshire.
With the money he has now, Paul could mount a telelvision ad campaign that, while not quite putting him toe-to-toe with frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, would set him apart from the rest of the GOP field's second tier.
"He could be a player. ... There's lots of time," Scala told RAW STORY. "Whether the congressman has a persuasive message, that's another question," but there remain plenty of undecided Republicans in New Hampshire.
The nation's newspapers varied in the coverage assigned to Paul's surprising performance. The Washington Post's print edition dedicated just two paragraphs to the story near the bottom of a political news roundup inside the paper, and the New York Times ran an un-bylined brief on page A23. The Wall Street Journal had the most comprehensive print coverage of the nation's top newspapers, with a 340-word article by Susan Davis on page A6.
Online, the Post dedicated far more ink -- er, pixels -- to Paul's fundraising prowess. An entry on the Post's campaign blog asks, "Is Ron Paul the Howard Dean of 2008?"
Paul's fervent opposition to the war in Iraq has set him apart from the rest of the GOP field, and his calls for an immediate return of US troops from Iraq present a quicker, more aggressive push to end the war than even the top Democratic candidates are presenting.
Such aggressiveness has earned Paul a substantial following online, and more than 70 percent of his recent contributions were gathered on the Internet. Since the beginning of the year, Paul has raised more than $8 million, according to the Associated Press, which also published a lengthy report on Paul's third-quarter haul.
While impressive, Paul still trails the top GOP candidates in fundraising, but the last three months have allowed him to close the gap. His most recent collections are just half of what the best-funded Republicans, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, raised.
The $5 million cash on hand Paul has will allow him to increase his paid staff from 44 to 50, and it will allow him to mount media campaigns in early-voting states, but there is still a deep skepticism that Paul could become a top contender or has much of a chance to come away with the nomination. His support still languishes in the single digits in polls of voters.
The Politico scoffs at the idea that the cash infusion would turn Paul into a "contender," but does allow that he could play "spoiler," especially in "Live Free Or Die" New Hampshire.
The full impact of Paul's fundraising remains to be seen, although the Politico assures its readers that he "won't have enough support to win an early primary or caucus."
However, Republican voters' dissatisfaction with their candidates remains high, and in addition to opposing the war, Paul is for drastically reducing the size of government, and he is pro-life.
“Everything that was wrong with the Republicans in 2006, Ron Paul is an answer to,” David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian CATO Institute, tells Politico. “He clearly is reaching a national constituency.”
The following video is from CNN's The Situation Room, broadcast on October 4, 2007.