One of the most interesting aspects of Congressman Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) presidential campaign is his ability to raise a lot of money without the traditionally large, bulk donors that most other candidates rely on. Since his last presidential run in 2008, Paul is known for his fervent grassroots support. And due to this decentralized support, Paul is able to raise enough money to closely rival his fellow GOP contenders, focus his campaign on smaller caucus states, gather as many delegates as possible, and continue spreading his message.
In the third quarter of 2011, Paul raised over $8 million, including “contributions from more than 100,000 unique donors — ‘more than five times the number of total donors to the campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.’” In the final months of 2011, Paul raised $13 million.
The disparity of donors becomes even clearer when you compare Paul’s support to the other candidates. While President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s top donors are Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, CitiGroup, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, the top three donors to the Paul campaign are PACs and individual members associated with the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. According to the New York Times, only 11% of Paul’s donors gave more than $1,500. With the support of mostly small donors and virtually no donations from Wall Street or large corporations, how is Paul able to rub shoulders with his top GOP rival, Governor Romney?
As David Sirota recently wrote in Slate, Paul’s widespread support, especially among those under 40, comes from his principled opposition to “our nation’s invade-bomb-and-occupy first, ask-questions later doctrine and to admit what the CIA acknowledges: namely, that our military actions can result in anti-Americanism fervor and terrorist blowback.” Paul’s reluctance to flatter his audience with watered-down platitudes and slogans in combination with his willingness to speak truth to power is making a notoriously apathetic demographic excited to find a candidate that wants to decentralize power as much as possible. It is precisely those people under 40 who bear the brunt of the federal government’s worst excesses, whether it be in unconstitutional wars, the war on drugs, or paying the costs of bailouts and the debt of previous administrations.
But Paul’s support isn’t limited to young voters. In an interview with Human Events, Paul’s campaign chairman Jesse Benton notes that Paul has built in an effective “ground game” in primary and caucus states with support from newly elected and libertarian-leaning Republicans. “Ron is backed by three state legislators in Iowa and three members of the state's Republican Central Committee,” says Benton. “We have 23 state representatives in New Hampshire in our corner and expect to have the backing of 30 before long ... major Tea Party groups in South Carolina are also bastions of Paul support.”
It is precisely because of Paul’s anti-establishment message, and not his personality or status, that so many non-traditional donors are attracted to his campaign. Although Paul’s chance of claiming the GOP nomination and the White House are slim if you listen to the mainstream media, it his fundamentally his ideas — individual liberty, free markets, constitutional government, sound money, and a humble foreign policy — that are winning and changing the face of public discourse.
There are some that mock his admitted lack of enthusiam at the thought of holding the most powerful position in the world, and although he is definitely in the race to win, he resembles John the Baptist more than a Reagan figure. And with a consistent source of grassroots money and support, Paul is not going anywhere.
It’s not easy attacking the large, corporate, and special interests that have so much influence on the political process, but Paul’s candidacy proves that it isn’t impossible.
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