Feb. 5, 2008 — -- The Republican party's Super Tuesday survey of 21 states could be more a time for soul searching than celebrating for the scrappy, insurgent presidential campaign of Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Paul defied expectations to make his mark during the campaign with remarkable online fundraising totals and omnipresent supporters. The question now remains: will the brushfire burn out?
Paul has insisted repeatedly that he will not mount an independent campaign, remaining in the Republican race until the money ran out, pointing to Super Tuesday as a bellwether.
Here, for what it's worth, is the writing on the wall:
The blimp supporters inflated in his honor — and floated around the South for over a month — is back on the ground in North Carolina after contributions dried up. There is also no celebration planned for tonight, just a small dinner for staff in the Washington, D.C. Until yesterday, there was nothing on Paul's calendar for this most important primary voting day. He now plans on making an appearance with other Republicans in West Virginia.
The next thing on Paul's calendar after the Super Tuesday contests is scheduled for Sunday: a rally in his hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas, where Paul is running for reelection to the House of Representatives concurrently with his White House bid. The campaign manager for Paul's congressional campaign recently sent a fundraising letter to the Texas congressman's presidential campaign mailing list.
"Let the Establishment know that the movement will continue, whether in Congress or in the White House," wrote Mark Elam, in the message to supporters.
Paul faces a local challenge in his district in the March 4 Texas primary from Chris Peden, a local CPA and mayor pro tempore in Friendswood, Texas. If Paul is downcast by his showing today, it will be interesting to see what happens at Sunday's rally. Candidates ending a presidential bid traditionally return home to make the announcement.
Paul's spokesman, Jesse Benton, said his boss is not too concerned about the Republican challenge for his congressional seat, but he's not taking any chances either. And Benton admitted there will be some reevaluating done on Paul's presidential bid after Super Tuesday.
He described Paul's quest for the White House as "not entirely quixotic" but called it "a complicated formula" for Paul as to when and how he will exit the race if he becomes sure he cannot do more with his campaign, all the while insisting Paul has no plans to end his campaign.
Benton said the Paul campaign has high hopes for some of the states holding caucuses today and some smaller states. While the campaign hasn't focused efforts on delegate-rich states like California, it has instead run a small state, big splash strategy in places like Minnesota, North Dakota, Nevada, Maine and Louisiana, hoping the libertarian Republican will be able to make his mark.
Further proof that Ron Paul's campaign is different (if any more were needed): While the others across the candidate pool spent every day this year in and out of the 24 total Super Tuesday states, Ron Paul did not start his retail trips into Super Tuesday states until Jan. 31. He had fewer than half the campaign events in all states that Sen. Hillary Clinton had in California.
Having raised more than $5 million this quarter, Paul's campaign is not necessarily over, Benton said. "The fundraising is there and the support is there to stay in," he said.
Paul's $5 million haul is not chump change, but neither is it close to the $20 million he brought in last quarter. Comparatively, Sen. Barack Obama raised $32 million in January alone. And candidates like John McCain are enjoying a gradual uptick in fundraising.But a Ron Paul "moneybomb" launched by independent supporters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day raised just under $2 million in a 24-hour period — far less than similar previous events in November and December.
No matter the outcome, Paul's mark on the Republican race is undeniable.
Paul dominated the foreign policy portions of several GOP forums, notably the ABC News/Facebook-sponsored debate before the New Hampshire primary, and effectively made his anti-military involvement plea to bring the troops home at a debate sponsored by CNN in Los Angeles.
Paul's popularity among military members in fundraising should give pause to the other Republican candidates, all supporters of the Iraq war. With the economy nearing a possible recession, even Paul's economic ideas — his constant warnings about inflation, his complaints about the Fed's manipulation of the credit markets and the Treasury Department's manipulation of the dollar — have gotten a second look, even if his solutions to those problems, like doing away with the IRS and returning to the gold standard, seem eternally relegated to the fringe.