Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Ron Paul have little in common politically, except their opposition to the Iraq war.
Both top a new list of presidential candidates receiving campaign contributions from people who work for the four branches of the military and National Guard, according to a study released Thursday by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Obama, an Illinois senator, brought in more donations from this group than any White House contender from either party. The Democrat announced Wednesday his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2008.
Paul, a Texas congressman and the only GOP presidential hopeful who supports an immediate troop withdrawal, comes in second.
"Paul and Obama are talking straight to soldiers, and what they are saying is resonating," said Larnell Exum, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who gave $500 to Obama. Exum, who works for the Army as a congressional liaison, is a Democrat but voted for George Bush in 1992.
The center tallied money from donors who list the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and National Guard as an employer. Overall, these donations are miniscule: Obama got 44 contributions worth about $27,000 and Paul 23 for about $19,300. Republican John McCain, an Iraq war supporter and Vietnam prisoner of war, was third with about $18,500 from 32 donors.
In 2004, military personnel contributed $1.2 million to presidential and congressional candidates, the center said. This year, those donations are about $200,000.
The analysis also found that military personnel have shifted their donations. In 2002, the center said Democrats received 23% of contributions from military workers; Republicans got 77%. This year, 40% of their donations have gone to Democrats running for Congress and president. The GOP got 59%.
The donation patterns "would suggest that those who wear the uniform want change," said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Bruce Altschuler, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Oswego and a Vietnam veteran, said, "The whole country has been shifting to Democrats, and the military, in some ways, is a microcosm of society."
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama is pleased to have the support of those "who have sacrificed so much."
Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said the military support makes sense. The congressman "wants to get (troops) out of playing the world's policemen and get them home," he said.
Altschuler cautioned against reading too much into the early contributions, particularly in such small amounts. "These figures could look very different in a few months."