I take back all my fears about the piece. It's a fair, superb account of Ron Paul's history, ideology, character and significance, including completely relevant material about some of the kooks his campaign has indeed attracted. Here's the explanation for the congressman's strange political success:
The Victoria Advocate, an influential newspaper in the district, has generally opposed Paul for re-election, on the grounds that a “lone wolf” cannot get the highway and homeland-security financing the district needs. So how does he get re-elected? Tim Delaney, the paper’s editorial-page editor, says: “Ron Paul is a very charismatic person. He has charm. He does not alter his position ever. His ideals are high. If a little old man calls up from the farm and says, I need a wheelchair,’ he’ll get the damn wheelchair for him.”
And here's Caldwell's shrewd analysis of Paul's salience:
Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers and anger are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.