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An Also-Ran in the GOP Polls, Ron Paul Is Huge on the Web

Rep. Ron Paul, one of the most obscure GOP presidential hopefuls on the old-media landscape, has drawn more views of his YouTube videos (which include clips from the June 5 New Hampshire debate, above) than any of his GOP rivals.
Rep. Ron Paul, one of the most obscure GOP presidential hopefuls on the old-media landscape, has drawn more views of his YouTube videos (which include clips from the June 5 New Hampshire debate, above) than any of his GOP rivals. (By Elise Amendola -- Associated Press)

But perhaps what most notably separates Paul from the crowded Republican field, headed by what former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III calls "Rudy McRomney," is his stance on the Iraq war. He's been against it from the very beginning.

After the second Republican presidential debate last month, when Paul implied that American foreign policy has contributed to anti-Americanism in the Middle East -- "They attack us because we're over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years," Paul said -- he was attacked by Giuliani, and conservatives such as Saul Anuzis were livid. Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan GOP, threatened to circulate a petition to bar Paul from future Republican presidential debates. Though the petition never materialized, Anuzis's BlackBerry was flooded with e-mails and his office was inundated with calls for several days. "It was a distraction, no doubt," he said.

The culprits: Paul's growing number of supporters, some of whom posted Anuzis's e-mail address and office phone number on their blogs.

"At first I was skeptical of his increasing online presence, thinking that it's probably just a small cadre of dedicated Ron Paul fans," said Matt Lewis, a blogger and director of operations at Townhall, a popular conservative site. "But if you think about it, the number one issue in the country today is Iraq. If you're a conservative who supports the president's war, you have nine candidates to choose from. But if you're a conservative who believes that going into Iraq was a mistake, Ron Paul is the only game in town."

Added Terry Jeffrey, the syndicated newspaper columnist who ran Patrick J. Buchanan's failed White House bid in 1996: "On domestic issues like spending and taxation and the role of government, Ron Paul is saying exactly what traditional conservatives have historically thought, and he's pointing out that the Bush administration has walked away from these principles. That's a very attractive argument."

Especially to someone such as Brad Porter, who obsessively writes about Paul on his blog, subscribes to Paul's YouTube channel and attended a Ron Paul MeetUp event in Pittsburgh last week.

The 28-year-old Carnegie Mellon student donated $50 to Paul's coffers after the first debate, and an additional $50 after the third debate.

"For a poor college student, that's a lot," said Porter, a lifelong Republican. "But I'm not supporting him because I think he could get the nomination. I'm supporting him because I think he can influence the national conversation about what the role of government is, how much power should government have over our lives, how much liberty should we give up for security. These are important issues, and frankly, no one's thinking about them as seriously and sincerely as Ron Paul."


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