Paul's Haul

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; 8:50 AM

Ron Paul just grabbed the media by the throat and got their attention with the only language they understand: money.

Until now, journalists have basically dismissed the Texas Republican congressman as a joke, a fringe candidate, a comic-relief figure with a whole lot of wacky views. He was entertaining at debates, good fodder for the occasional bemused feature, but otherwise seen as cluttering up the stage.

What reporters and pundits respect, though, is poll numbers and fundraising numbers. And while Paul is anemic on the first, he raised a staggering $4 million online Monday, shattering the previous GOP record.

The one-day total would be a coup for a front-runner, let alone an eccentric also-ran. So reporters across the country put aside their Hillary and Rudy pieces to ask the burning question: How on earth did he do that?

What no news organization will ask, of course, is: How on earth did we miss the significance of the Paul movement?

Politico's Jonathan Martin sees a human Rorschach test:

"Similarly to Howard Dean in the last presidential contest, Paul is becoming a vessel with which one can fill with his hopes, dreams, resentments and grievances. He is, in effect, what you want him to be. Many on the left choose to ignore that Dean was a pro-gun, budget-balancing Yankee moderate governor. They wanted an anti-war, anti-establishment spear-carrier and Dean, a son of Park Avenue, become the unlikely leader.

"Just the same, many Paul supporters don't know or don't care about his somewhat outlandish views on the Gold Standard. They just want a man who will speak truth to power about the war and, more broadly, a flawed foreign policy that has been hijacked by neocons.

"So Paul could potentially play a role in both the New Hampshire primary (where Democrats and independents can vote) and in the general election, should he choose to run as a third-party candidate. And in the general he could take from both parties. For all the elite media obsessing over Michael Bloomberg and his mushy centrism, it's not global warming and trans-fats that will energize most Americans. Rather it's flashpoint issues like the war, immigration and jobs (i.e. trade policy). And an 'America First' candidate -- even a Libertarian-leaning one -- who stood squarely against interventionism, any sort of amnesty and free trade deals would have natural appeal."

National Review's David Frum, who is working for Giuliani, is puzzled but not worried:

"Of course I am saddened to discover that many thousands of Americans have rallied to a candidate campaigning on a Michael Moore view of the world.

"Saddened, but not greatly surprised. There is a constituency for anything in a country this big. And from a pragmatic political point of view, it's also true that the Paul candidacy helps rather than hurts my party and my preferred nominee, Rudy Giuliani. Rudy is in no danger of losing Republican primary voters to Ron Paul. And if (as I have speculated) Paul mounts an independent candidacy in the general election, he will draw votes from disaffected Democrats, disappointed in Hillary Clinton's failure to articulate a more radical antiwar message. As third-party candidates go, Ron Paul is Nader, not Perot."

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