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Ron Paul's Money Machine Churns for Others

By Chris Cillizza
Monday, September 14, 2009

The 2008 presidential campaign may be over, but the "revolution" spawned by Rep. Ron Paul's candidacy continues to echo through the political world.

Paul (R-Tex.), capitalizing on a healthy distrust of government and his strident opposition to the war in Iraq, became an Internet phenomenon -- using the Web to raise an astounding $35 million for his long-shot candidacy.

The financial network Paul built during his campaign has, amazingly, continued to reap dividends for two men seeking to be the congressman's political heirs in the 2010 elections.

Rand Paul, who is running for the Senate in Kentucky and is the son of the congressman, has already raised $827,000, even though nearly the entire Republican Party establishment in the Bluegrass State has lined up behind Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Peter Schiff, an economic adviser to Paul's presidential campaign and a likely senatorial candidate in Connecticut, has raised more than $1 million, although he has yet to officially declare.

Both men have used the "money bomb" approach (encourage all donors to give on a certain day to post large 24-hour totals) to fundraising strategies that Paul pioneered.

Jesse Benton, a former Paul campaign spokesman, said he was not surprised by the amount of money that Rand Paul and Schiff have raised to date.

He called the Paul movement "legitimate" and "real," noting that the Campaign for Liberty -- an organization formed after the campaign and of which Paul serves as honorary chairman -- has raised $4 million since its founding in February.

"These are people who want to return to our traditional values of self-reliance and liberty," Benton added.

It remains to be seen whether Rand Paul or Peter Schiff can turn fundraising capacity into actual votes.

Although Ron Paul raised vast sums of cash and had -- without question -- the most vocal and energized group of supporters on the Republican side, he was never a real factor in any state.

Paul won 10 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses -- good for fourth place -- and crested 20 percent in a handful of primaries and caucuses, including North Dakota (21 percent), Montana (25 percent) and Idaho (24 percent). But, overall, he remained a bit player in the race for the GOP nomination.

Polling conducted in Kentucky suggests that his son is a more legitimate threat to the party establishment. Grayson led Paul by 40 percent to 25 percent in a primary matchup conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal Daily Kos blog.

Schiff has fared poorly in Connecticut polling. In a Quinnipiac survey in late July, Schiff didn't even get 1 percent of the vote. Still, the sums of money that Paul-ites have donated to Senate candidates in Connecticut and Kentucky are impressive and suggest that the Ron Paul Revolution -- such as it is -- may not be over.

PARTY PICKS

With so many gubernatorial races on the ballot -- 39! -- there are competitive contests galore across the country.

At stake? Control of governor's mansions in advance of the critical 2010 census and 2011 redistricting -- processes that could help determine the parties' fate in Congress for the next decade.

Here's a look at the 10 states most likely to switch parties in 2009 and 2010:

10. California (Republican-controlled): California is a Democratic-leaning state that has been led by a Republican -- albeit a Republican named Arnold Schwarzenegger -- for the past six years. Voters are likely to reverse that trend, although Republicans hold out hope that if former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is their nominee, they can keep the seat.

9. Nevada (R): The decision by former state attorney general Brian Sandoval to step down from the federal bench to (presumably) run for governor is a major recruiting success for national Republicans. Sandoval's presence means that embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons almost certainly won't survive a Republican primary.

8. Michigan (D): The state's economy continues to struggle mightily and voters are sick of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). Republicans have a stacked field while Democrats, well, don't.

7. New Jersey (D-2009): Former U.S. attorney Chris Christie (R) has had a rough time the past few weeks. His spotty driving record and a personal loan he granted to a former colleague have helped Gov. Jon Corzine (D) rise from the political dead. Still, polling suggests that although the race has narrowed, Corzine still trails and runs in the upper 30s -- never a good sign for a well-known incumbent.

6. Vermont (R): The surprise retirement announcement of Gov. Jim Douglas (R) creates a great pickup opportunity for Democrats. Republicans are likely to line up behind Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie as he is, by far, their best chance of holding the seat. Democrats seem headed toward a crowded primary, but the state's demographics are heavily weighted in their favor.

5. Oklahoma (D): President Obama won 34 percent of the vote in 2008. 'Nuff said.

4. Tennessee (D): Two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen has no obvious heir.

3. Rhode Island (R): Former senator Lincoln Chafee is aiming to make his political return in 2010 with a run for governor as an independent. Given the power of his last name in the state and the very weak GOP field, Chafee would have a real chance of defeating state Treasurer Frank Caprio (D) or state Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D).

2. Hawaii (R): National Republicans hold Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in high regard, but we just don't see it.

1. Kansas (D): Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is a heavy favorite.

Democratic operative Steve Bouchard is opening his own consulting shop known, creatively, as Bouchard Strategies. Bouchard, who had been working as an adviser to former vice president Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, will retain the group as a client and plans to add several other political campaigns. Bouchard served as South Carolina campaign director for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid in 2008, spent time as the head of the leadership PAC of Sen. Evan Bayh and, in 2004, was the Ohio director for America Coming Together.

Five days: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is eyeing a presidential bid in 2012, headlines an Ohio Republican Party dinner.

Nine days: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) travels to Hong Kong to deliver a speech to CLSA, an international brokerage.

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