The conservative pundits are now referring to Ron Paul as a "crackpot." Hannity predictably savaged him last night (see above). The Hewitt site has an image of a man in a tin-foil hat; Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt both call for removing Paul from the debates, when he has been the best thing about them so far. Bill Benett wants him out. I'm getting the usual ridicule for taking him seriously from the usual GOP apparatchiks. They're scared, aren't they? The Internet polls show real support for him. Fox News' own internet poll placed him a close second, with 25 percent of the votes from Fox News viewers. We have a real phenomenon here - because someone has to stand up for what conservatism once stood for. Whether you agree with him or not ( and I know few outside doctrinaire libertarians who agree with everything he says), he has already elevated the debates by injecting into them a legitimate, if now suppressed, strain of conservatism that is actually deeper in this country than the neoconservative aggression that now captures the party elite and has trapped the US in the Iraq nightmare. Last night, Fox News tried to destroy him. Today the right-wing blogs will. My view is that the Beltway has this wrong again, as Byron York is finding out. Paul is saying things many Americans and many Republicans believe. On the war and spending, he is venting a vital part of conservative opinion - and, in my view, the conservative critique of this war and these Republicans is more damning than any liberal one. I may not agree with him on everything and he is far from a smooth operator. But he has more balls than most of them put together. Check this video montage from the first debate and this exchange from the second. Make your own mind up. Hang in there, Dr Ron. There are more of us out here wishing you the best than you know.