Supporters Pump Ron Paul Full of Hot Air

Somewhere in an enormous hangar in North Carolina, enormous decals are being stuck to an enormous blimp.

"Who is Ron Paul? Google Ron Paul," the 240,000-cubic-foot zeppelin will read on one side and "Ron Paul Revolution" on the other when it launches from Elizabeth City, N.C., Monday and begins its slow, 300-mile-per-day float up the Eastern Seaboard to Boston.

People in their cars and on park benches, going about their daily lives, are bound to say something like, "What the heck is that blimp doing up there? Who the heck is Ron Paul?"

And that's pretty much the idea.

For all his recent buzz, Paul remains unknown to most Americans and his libertarian scruples, which set him apart in the Republican Party as the only GOP presidential hopeful against the Iraq War, also make him a stranger to Democrats, many of whom embrace his anti-war stance, but dislike his views on issues like abortion.

Paul's 08 Bid Takes Flight

With any luck, the dirigible will be in the Washington, D.C., skyline sometime in the afternoon on Monday, although there could be some airspace issues in the greater Washington area.

The plan is to have it floating over Boston Harbor by the weekend of Dec. 15, where Paul supporters will reenact the Boston Tea Party and hold a large rally at Faneuil Hall. His online supporters have a fundraising effort, which coincides with the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. For more on that, check out Teaparty.com.

If nothing else, the blimp will be unique as a campaign tool and could get the Texas congressman some free attention in the "mainstream media" as his supporters like to call it.

Hiring a blimp at great expense and without any campaign coordination seems like it would be a first in the annals of American elections. But there are no records to be found on such things.

Launching an Independent Campaign

Like many of the more successful ventures of Paul's presidential campaign, the blimp has nothing to do directly with Ron Paul the candidate. The tea party rally, for instance, has some of the same organizers as the blimp enterprise. While Paul may go to Boston, neither he nor his campaign are helping plan the event.

But they will benefit from the millions that will likely be raised that day, just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses and three weeks before the New Hampshire primary, where Paul is considered to have his best shot.

As campaigners, Paul's disparate and spirited supporters, though political novices, have shown themselves to be both creative in pushing their candidate and adroit in finding ways around both the traditional media and campaign finance laws.

A Former Election Commissioner Adds His Two Cents

For instance, supporters do not "contribute" money to a Political Action Committee. To fund the dirigible, they "buy" into a for-profit corporation called Liberty Political Advertising LLC. With the help of former federal election commissioner Brad Smith, the organizers are confident the arrangement "offers the best of both worlds, no limits and virtually no regulations."

Of course, there is the possibility that each of the more than 100,000 donators to the blimp enterprise could be required to file their own federal declaration form.

So far, the more than 100,000 supporters buying into the blimp have given anywhere from $25 to $5,000, according to Bryce Henderson, the media coordinator for Liberty Political Advertising, based in Simi Valley, Calif.

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