Ron Paul: Republican Dark Horse

Rep. Ron Paul's story is that of a bona fide grassroots sensation.

Paul, of Texas, is the only Republican contender to post notable fund-raising gains last quarter, managing to pull in $5 million-- mostly online and a lot of it from our troops.

His fundraising puts him on par with John McCain.

Paul is a Republican who is fining himself standing alone on a few issues, most notably his call for an end of the war, breaking with the views of the president and his party faithful, and he doesn't mince words on the topic.

"I don't think it's complicated," Paul said. "I mean, we just went in and we went in erroneously. We went in without the proper authority. We went in under a false pretense and all the conditions that were claimed didn't exist. It's going badly. So I think we should just leave."

He added that he thinks keeping troops in Iraq is only going to make the conditions worse.

"It endangers us," Paul said. "It increases the danger of terrorism. There used to be 600 al Qaeda before we went in there. Now there are probably 6,000."

Paul is an old-school libertarian who wants to do away with Social Security, the Department of Education, drug enforcement and the IRS, all on the grounds that America should learn to spend less, starting overseas.

"We're spending nearly $1 trillion overseas maintaining an empire which does nothing more than get us into trouble and undermines our national defense," he said.

Paul's views and opinions on domestic and international policies have garnered him something of a cult following on the Internet. He's a big hit on Facebook, and he's right below Paris Hilton and right above Mario Lopez on blog searches.

And his Internet following is a generous one.

"We doubled the amount of money we raised last time," Paul said. "We had about 40,000 new donors. The average donation is $40."

He says his views on withdrawal from Iraq are concerned only reflect the views of the population -- and it's borne out by the amount of donations he has received.

"The people are rallying behind us," he said. "They're willing to put their money where their mouth is. The campaign keeps growing."

And it's money he says he knows how to use.

"We run a frugal campaign," he said. "The other campaigns are wasting their money. ... We have $5 million. If we keep doubling this, we're going to have plenty of money to advertise in the primary."

Paul added that he is ready to spread the word of his campaign.

"It's a message of freedom," he said, "and what America's all about and about prosperity and hope."

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