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Ron Paul Quietly Converting GOP Believers

The Street.com | August 9, 2007
John Fout

Why haven't conservatives leaders embraced their own ideals and come out to support Ron Paul in public?

I pondered this issue in an article in June. I saw Paul as the one second-tier candidate who might have a chance of a breakout from the pack. It turns out I might have got it right. He has remained the most popular GOP candidate on the Internet. This genuine outpouring of support is rivaled only by that for Barack Obama.

Paul remains low in the polls, but his fund-raising suggests he has moved into a separate tier not shared by other small candidates. His campaign has $2.4 million on hand -- more than that of Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.). I spoke with Jesse Benton, Paul's communications director, and he says funding continues to be positive for this quarter.

The other second-tier GOP candidates need to do well in the Iowa Ames Straw Poll to stay in the race. Paul does not. His money and popularity over the Internet have separated him from the others.

Paul's campaign recently scheduled several last-minute events in South Carolina with a few days notice. They drew 450 people at one and over 1,000 at another. Front-runner Rudy Giuliani would love to draw those kinds of crowds.

So Paul has gotten support. Sometimes, his supporters don't always agree. A recent New York Times Magazine piece excerpted the following from a supporter's letter to Paul headquarters:
We're in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other "wackos" for their beliefs whether that is simply because they're liberal, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc. ... We absolutely must focus on Ron's message only and put aside all other agendas, which anyone can save for the next "Star Trek" convention or whatever.

The New York Times piece, nevertheless, demonstrates that Paul's support is genuine.

Then, the National Review Online jumped into the Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) debate last week. It seems that NRO feels conflicted about supporting Paul for president, as do many conservatives.

First, John Derbyshire wrote glowingly about all of the conservative credentials of Paul. Derbyshire's final conclusion, however, was that he could not embrace his own dreams and ideals:
Ain't gonna happen. It was, after all, a conservative who said that politics is the art of the possible. Ron Paul is not possible. His candidacy belongs to the realm of dreams, not practical politics. But, oh, what sweet dreams!

Then Todd Seavey came to Paul's defense a day later. He sees Paul as the perfect fusion candidate to bring together the fiscal and social conservatives:
Presto! The much-lamented divide between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives, which has seemed to be widening lately, is eliminated. As has oft been said, Republicans tend to fare best when they pursue the program (pioneered by National Review and praised last year by Ryan Sager in his book Elephant in the Room) called "fusionism," yoking together social conservatism and the libertarian desire to shrink government.

Paul's positions are also genuine. He has a very consistent voting record, so much so that it occasionally puts him in hot water in his own district. But his ability to stay on message will get him support from an important corner of the Republican Party -- the evangelicals.

The evangelicals in the GOP have experienced fatigue over the last few years. They have heard quite a few promises from Washington but have had precious few real victories to celebrate. How long can they put up with the pandering from the top tier candidates like Giuliani (pro-choice), Mitt Romney (a flip-flopper), and Fred Thompson (a lobbyist).

Paul has always been pro-life. He was also an original supporter of Ronald Reagan in 1976 against Gerald Ford. But you won't hear him discussing his views on religion in public. He's a firm believer in the Constitution and the separation between church and state.

So what is stopping conservatives from coming out and supporting Ron Paul in public? I return to Derbyshire's piece:
If Washington, D.C. were the drowsy southern town that Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge rode into, Ron Paul would have a chance. Washington's not like that nowadays, though. It is a vast megalopolis, every nook and cranny stuffed with lobbyists, lawyers, and a hundred thousand species of tax-eater.

Derbyshire basically admits to all of the foibles that have damaged the Republicans over the last seven years -- the lobbyists and scandals. Conservatives have gone from a party of ideals to a party of money, power brokering and winning at all costs.

Unfortunately for the GOP, it has caught up with them. They lost soundly in 2006 and may well repeat it in 2008. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) didn't help their cause last week with another ethics scandal. He's also the senator responsible for an earmark for the "bridge to nowhere."

So why not take a chance on Ron Paul? Even if you can't win, at least conservatives would feel good that they did the right thing by cleaning house. Besides, the last time a conservative got drubbed in a presidential election was Barry Goldwater in 1964. His loss did lead conservatives to their greatest win -- Ronald Reagan.

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