ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: If there was one overriding principle of the presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, it might be this: markets work.
But if you are going to trust the government, healthcare, and everything else to markets — do the same principles of supply and demand apply to presidential campaigns?
What then to make of the first email by Ron Paul’s campaign to supporters in a month — not announcing a rally of seeking campaign fundraising, but advertising a fire sale of "Ron Paul ’08" merchandise.
For a mere $25, Ron Paulians can order a grab bag of magnets, buttons, stickers, mouse pads, key chains, hats, wrist bands "and more!." The package will also include a single t-shirt. And if that’s not enough to sway you, the $25 includes shipping.
Paul’s spokesman, Jesse Benton, said not to infer anything from the sale.
"We’re just trying to clear some stuff out because we’re getting a little low on storage space," Benton said, pointing out there is less need for yard signs that say Ron Paul Iowa now that the Iowa primary is over.
Benton said the Paul campaign still gets anywhere from 20 to 50 orders per day for t-shirts and other items in the Ron Paul online store, although he admits there were "many times that" number of orders earlier in the campaign.
While Paul is trying to get rid of merchandise, other campaigns that may or may not be on their last legs are trying to jazz up their base with t-shirt contests.
To be fair, the market is also giving Paul mixed messages. He may have a glut of mouse pads and magnets, but the book he released last month, "The Revolution: A Manifesto," is still in the top 20 as far as sales on Amazon.com, the best selling book by a presidential candidate at the moment.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is next, at just outside the top 50, with "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."
Paul made a career in the House of opposing the more paternalist nature of Washington and he made a splash early on in the Republican presidential campaign when his small-government, market-based, anti-interventionist, laissez-faire principles led to millions raised in an Internet groundswell.
But now that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, is the presumptive Republican nominee, it is a fine line that Paul is walking. He says he is winding down his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination (in large part because he is mathematically unable to win it).
He does not want to follow many of his most ardent supporters to the Libertarian party. He ran for President as a Libertarian once before, in 1988, and now says the American political system is too weighted against third parties. Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia won the Libertarian nomination this week.
But while he realizes he can’t win, Paul is still encouraging people to vote for him. His plan is to take delegates to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in September and demonstrate that the libertarian wing of the Republican party is not going away.
Benton said Paul is holding out hope for an invitation from the national party to speak in Minneapolis, but "we aren’t holding our breath."
If snubbed, Paul’s supporters and however many delegates he has amassed by then (the current ABC News scorecard gives Paul 14 delegates to McCain’s 1267), Benton said, will make themselves seen in Minneapolis and Paul will speak at his own shadow events there in Minneapolis.
And moving on, Paul still plans to turn his vocal support into a permanent campaign to reclaim the Republican party for his small government ethos. And as Republicans find themselves with less power in Washington, DC, you can admittedly see the rank and file of the party start to adopt some of those very ideals as they oppose spending bills proposed by the Democrats who have run Congress since 2006.