Paul's $16M Haul... Impressive. No Buts.

There's no question that Ron Paul has tapped into a unique, hitherto hidden vein in the Republican body politic, and it's proved quite lucrative: he says he's raised $16M this quarter and pulled in a record $6.6M in a single day.

He's spending the money on television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, radio ads, and, if you're driving through Iowa these days, ubiquitous billboards.

The challenge he'll face from us MSMers is simple: so far, he's proven that he resonates with a vocal minority of Republican primary voters -- a smaller minority than, say, the 40% of evangelicals in Iowa who are sustaining Mike Huckabee's rise, and the 20% of McCainiacs in New Hampshire.

It might not seem fair, but in the projective calculus of the Republican nomination, the ability to put together a broad coalition of voters is a necessary limit. This is harder than it sounds: "Ron Paul is pro-life and so he'll get pro-lifers when they tire of Huckabee" -- that's the start of the argument, not its end.

What's great, in one sense, about the Ron Paul phenom is that we don't know where it's going to end. We don't know how it's going to scramble the order of finish in the early states. And while we don't think Paul is going to win the nomination, we dismiss his impact at our peril.