The heated race for the Republican nomination for president is about to reach the critical oversaturation point. Within the next two months there will be four more “debates,” four more straw polls and thousands of media appearances by candidates. It is safe to say we are in the thick of the longest presidential campaign in American history. In fact the first Republican candidate to announce, Gary Johnson, did so an astounding 565 days before the actual presidential election. In the meantime, the collective media has clearly settled on two front runners for the Republican nomination 14 months out: Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Michele Bachmann still continues to enamor popular media and is portrayed as having a legitimate chance to contend, but her popularity is waning. Other candidates such as Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are continually discussed as potential influencers on the final outcome of the nomination. Not to mention there’s the ever-lingering prospect of a Sarah Palin entry, which would undoubtedly send the media into an entirely unprecedented level of speculation on the outcome.
One major candidate has seemingly gone unnoticed as of late — where is Ron Paul? Paul came within a mere 152 votes of winning the famed Ames Straw Poll in August, finishing second to Bachmann. Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” perpetuated the stigma that marginalizes Paul’s electoral chances: “There’s a top tier now of Bachmann and Perry and Romney, and we haven’t mentioned, and we should, Rick Santorum who really did surprisingly well for the amount of money and resources he had.”
Ames was not Paul’s only strong showing. In addition to finishing ahead of Perry, Romney and Santorum in Ames, Paul has won four different straw polls this year, which is the most of any Republican candidate. He also has the largest number of cumulative votes from the numerous straw polls that have been conducted throughout the country. In terms of raising money, Paul is second only to the Romney empire. Despite this fact, Paul does have the clout to raise incredible sums of money in virtually no time.
Prior to the last presidential election, Paul was part of the largest one-day political fundraiser in the history of American elections, when he amassed $4.2 million in campaign contributions in a single day, on Nov. 5, 2007. His grassroots organization is incredibly strong as he trails behind Romney in Facebook likes; he has an extensive Twitter presence with more than 60,000 followers (Bachmann leads all the candidates with more than 95,000) and Paul boasts more than 600 distinct community support groups across the nation. Paul’s following is so passionate that despite his formal withdrawal from the 2008 general election, two groups; The Constitution Party of Montana and The Louisiana Taxpayers Party, each formally filed paperwork recognizing Paul as their official candidate. Without his filing, Paul was officially on the ballot in the two states.
So Paul has an extensive support group, polls well with republicans, can raise incredible sums of money and has a sound electoral platform, but the media is still willing to write him off? How is it possible that despite these factors, and with the sweeping Tea Party / Libertarian Party sentiments reverberating across the nation, Paul is still perceived as being a fringe element?
The powerful enigma of Paul is a direct threat to conventional elections, as his feverish supporters show a true devotion to their candidate and his platforms. For many Americans, Paul represents the ability to translate the election to an exercise of choice again, rather than the all-too-common lesser of two evils decision. Through the course of his electoral career, Paul has regularly utilized truth and consistency in his campaigns. On three different occasions he has defeated an incumbent candidate in winning a congressional seat. Paul’s consistency has translated into electoral success, as he never deviates from his message into order to attract swing votes or special interests.
Throughout the George W. Bush era, Paul was the antiestablishment Republican. As Paul represented the 14th district in Bush’s home state of Texas, he continually voted against aggressive federal spending and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time many in the media portrayed his frank viewpoints as being brazen and absurd. Post 2008, antiestablishment is the vogue of the Republican Party, which makes it mystifying that Paul still gets overlooked.
Regardless of the fact Paul is continually written off, ignored and marginalized as a candidate in popular media, he is a legitimate candidate. In the quest for the Republican nomination, Ronald Reagan’s name is often invoked as what the party should aspire to be once again. Reagan, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Republican Party, offered the following on Paul: “Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense. As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first. We need to keep him fighting for our country.”
—Brody Burns is seeking a master’s in business administration.