Ron Paul has outperformed his previous run for the GOP nomination for president, garnering solid support in Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet for some in the party his rising popularity could spell trouble for the party. As Chris Cillizza reported :

In the wake of his second-place showing in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night, Texas Rep. Ron Paul declared: “We are dangerous to the status quo of this country”.

He’s right. And that could be a very bad thing for a Republican party hoping to take back the White House this November.

A look at exit polling from New Hampshire suggests that Paul has a significant — and steady — following that exists almost entirely apart from the Republican party and is, in many ways, based on a disgust with the GOP.

Two numbers from the exit polls jump out.

1) Almost seven in ten people who voted for Paul on Tuesday in New Hampshire said they would be “dissatisfied” if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee.

2) Fully 78 percent of Paul’s New Hampshire support came from those who are dissatisfied or angry with the Obama administration — not surprising given the low regard in which the current president is held by Republicans. But, consider this: 77 percent of Paul’s Granite State supporters in 2008 were similarly upset with the Bush administration. In fact, half of all Paul’s votes four years ago came from voters downright “angry” with Republican president.

Combine those two data points with the fact that Paul’s vote total more than tripled between 2008 (18,308 votes) and 2012 (56,000 votes and counting) and it’s clear that the Texas Republican’s support is not only primed and ready to follow him wherever he leads but it is also growing.

That double-barreled dose of reality leads naturally to a discussion of a possible third party bid in 2012 by Paul. He’s been asked any number of times about it and always demurs, insisting that it’s nothing he’s planning on doing. (In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Greta van Susteren Monday, Paul said: “That thought doesn’t cross my mind. I’m not thinking in those terms.”)

We believe him. But, circumstances change.

Even the music which introduced the candidate in New Hampshire raised eyebrows. As Maura Judkis and Melissa Bell explained:

It wasn’t a patriotic tune that rang out when Ron Paul took the stage in New Hampshire — instead, the candidate was bolstered by the “Imperial March,” the theme music for Darth Vader in “Star Wars.” The tune demonstrates Paul’s new mentality that he is a candidate to be feared: “We are dangerous to the status quo of this country,” he told his supporters, according to Chris Cillizza.

Could the “Imperial March” become a leitmotif associated not just with the dark side of the Force, but also with a dark horse candidate? Ponder Ron Paul’s chances of clinching the nomination to the tune of John Williams’s “Imperial March”:

The music — representing the embodiment of evil in the Star Wars universe — could be seen as a peculiar choice for a president, but it’s by no means the only time a candidate’s musical preferences have been questioned.

As The Post’s music critic Chris Richards noted in June, “supporters of Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry used Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’ in an online video, and GOP Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky, (Ron Paul’s son), has played Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer’ on the trail.”

For many voters and analysts, Ron Paul’s ability to couch his policy prescriptions as common sense solutions as opposed to high-brow political maneuvering resonates and is part of the reason for his success in the GOP primary. As Jenna McGregor explained:

The 76-year-old gynecologist-turned-Texas congressman might seem an odd choice to have legions of dedicated fans under the age of 30. But with his natural speaking style and his remarkably consistent point of view (Paul has reportedly changed his mind on only one major policy issue in nearly 40 years), he’s become the only GOP hopeful voters seem to be choosing because of who he is rather than because of who he isn’t. He may have come in third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, but he is first in passion. One CNN pundit compared Paul’s supporters to the Postal Service: “they’re going to come out—hail, sleet, snow, wind, straw polls, Internet chat rooms—they’re there for him.”

But what creates Paul’s pied-piper appeal is not just consistency and authenticity. What really makes people follow Paul—whether they know it or not—is that he has a pretty empowering message: common sense prevails. If a guy who started out delivering babies can figure out what needs to be done to resolve the financial crisis, he seems to be saying, voters can too. He leads with explanations instead of orders, with straightforward logic instead of high-minded policy solutions.

This faith in common sense is what anchors Paul’s leadership, and is what makes him patient and trusting that both the system—and the voters—will ultimately come around to his truth telling. It’s often said Paul’s popularity comes from the fact that his followers trust him. But perhaps more important, he makes them feel like he trusts them.

Paul’s ability to inspire enthusiastic loyalty could help him were he to be elected president—an unlikely outcome given his quite radical views, which include everything from ending the Federal Reserve and stopping all foreign aid. But if he were, such passion could help him pull together a galvanized team of staffers and motivated network of supporters lined up behind a common cause.

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