CONCORD -- When I visited Ron Paul's New Hampshire campaign headquarters this morning, only one member of his staff, Kate Rick, was there. The other six were out building a contraption to capture the unique energies of the Paul movement here. Excitement -- Paul is moving up (slowly) in the polls and has only, to this point, run a single radio ad.
A check of the parking lots at Paul events in New Hampshire finds many Vermont and Massachusetts license plates. An evolved campaign fills its crowds with voters, not just fans. Rick, the founder of the unofficial RonPaulHq.com, spent hundreds of her own dollars to print large yard signs. A campaign with millions in the bank can probably afford to pay her back.
For the longest time, many journalists, myself included, did not take Ron Paul seriously. It wasn't that his politics -- a combination of libertarian constitutionalism and social conservatism -- were unusual. It was, principally, that he was anti-war in a party where that view dare not express itself.
Paul is now emerging as a serious threat in New Hampshire, perhaps not to win it -- although the winner may need only 25% or so -- , but to influence the outcome in a way that reflects his worldview. He will spend most of the $5.3M in his campaign budget on television, mailings and field organizing in the Granite State. There are 450 people in largest Ron Paul Meetup group, and they're canvassing in Claremont and dropping lit in Manchester this weekend.
Who likes Paul? His aides say there is no single demographic. Many are former members of the Buchanan Brigade, suddenly re-energized by Paul's anti-interventionism and strong border stances. Others seem to be casual libertarians who never really found a sympathetic voice in any of the other presidential candidates. Yet others are self-described constitutionalists. They blame the monetary system for the credit crunch and for economic dislocation. Monetary policy has been Paul's other big bugbear.
Today, thousands of New Hampshire Republicans began receiving a glossy, 12-mail mailer -- the campaign's first major lit drop. The first Paul television ad should hit the airwaves soon. Paul will increase his campaign appearances here. He's hesitated to spend too much time on the campaign trail because he's a freak about serving his Texas constituents and never likes to miss a vote.
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