Wall Street Journal gives coverage to Ron Paul…

2008-01-06

Richard Moore

...but only on the opinions page, not part of campaign coverage.

rkm

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Original source URL:
http://www.opinionjournal.com/cc/?id=110011060&mod=RSS_Opinion_Journal&ojrss=frontpage

CROSS COUNTRY
Ron Beats Rudy?
New Hampshire could surprise a lot of people.

BY ANDREW CLINE
Sunday, December 30, 2007 12:01 a.m.
Wall Street Journal - Opinion Journal

MANCHESTER, N.H.--For several hours last Sunday, more than a dozen Ron Paul 
volunteers stood in snowdrifts in the rain outside the Mall of New Hampshire in 
Manchester waving at last-minute Christmas shoppers and handing out hundreds of 
yards signs.

The campaign doesn't know how many people participated because, as with so many 
Paul rallies, this one was organized entirely by fans not officially associated 
with the campaign.

"We told them to take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and next thing we know 
they're doing a sign wave at the mall," said Jim Forsythe, a self-employed 
engineer and former Air Force pilot from Strafford, N.H., who independently 
organizes volunteer efforts for Ron Paul.

That spontaneous grassroots support is why Mr. Paul, an obstetrician from Lake 
Jackson, Texas, could pull off a stunner on Jan. 8 and place third in New 
Hampshire's Republican primary. If he does, he would embarrass Rudy Giuliani and
steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are battling for 
first place.

Many Republican operatives in New Hampshire, even those affiliated with other 
campaigns, think Mr. Paul is headed for an impressive, double-digit performance.
That he has been polling in the high single digits for months is discounted, 
because the polls may be missing the depth of his support.

Why? For starters, he appears to be drawing new voters. Polls that screen for 
"likely" voters might screen out many Paul supporters who haven't voted often, 
or at all, before. Many of Mr. Paul's supporters appear to be first-time voters.
They will be able to cast their ballots because New Hampshire allows them to 
register and vote on the day of an election.

Even Mr. Paul's New Hampshire spokesman, Kate Rick, is an unlikely political 
activist. She grew up in a political family in Washington, D.C. and says "I 
swore I would never work in politics." She changed her mind only after finding 
Mr. Paul, a candidate she says she can finally believe in. "Most people I know 
in the grass roots are like that," she said. "My closest friends have never 
voted before, and they're die-hard Paul people now."

There is another reason to discount the polls on Mr. Paul. The one thing that 
unites his supporters is a desire to be left alone, not only by government, but 
by irritating marketers and meddling pollsters, too. Mr. Paul's supporters might
well be screening their calls and not-so-inadvertently screening out pollsters. 
Still, some observers of the primary race here downplay this support, noting 
that a lot of the activists who show up in news stories are not state residents 
and won't be voting.

It is true that Paul supporters from New York, New Jersey and even California 
are prominent at campaign rallies. But volunteers and campaign staffers say 
that, although out-of-state volunteers often are the most flamboyant and can 
attend daytime rallies while local supporters are at work, they do not outnumber
the locals.

"Ninety percent [of his supporters] are from New Hampshire," says Jared 
Chicoine, Mr. Paul's New Hampshire coordinator. Keith Murphy, a former 
Democratic campaign worker from Maryland who owns Murphy's Taproom in 
Manchester, has held several Paul rallies at his restaurant, which has become a 
regular hangout for the Paul crowd. When the candidate shows up, about 75% of 
the activists at an event are from out of state, he said, but on other nights 
it's about 50-50.

Regardless of where they are from, organizing Mr. Paul's supporters is a 
challenge. "This is entirely grassroots oriented to the point that the official 
campaign structure seems almost lost, to the point that they don't know what to 
do with all these people," Mr. Murphy said.

On their own initiative, and at their own expense, Paul volunteers hold rallies,
print and distribute brochures and even purchase ads. "I pick up the paper and 
say, wow, there's an ad and it's not my ad," Mr. Chicoine told me.

The buzz surrounding the Paul campaign is reminiscent of the grassroots campaign
Democrat Carol Shea-Porter waged against Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley last year. 
Polls showed Mrs. Shea-Porter trailing by 19 points in October. With almost no 
money and no support from the Democratic establishment, she came from behind and
beat the congressman 51% to 49%.

Many are wondering if the polls are similarly missing Mr. Paul's momentum. Mrs. 
Shea-Porter and Mr. Paul have very different ideas about how to use the power of
government, but both strongly oppose the war in Iraq. And Mrs. Shea-Porter ran 
last year as a fiscal conservative, so it's possible Mr. Paul could win over 
many Republicans who voted for her last year.

Mr. Chicoine and other Paul supporters say that, contrary to conventional 
wisdom, most of Mr. Paul's backers are Republicans, not independents. But 
everyone agrees that Mr. Paul draws an unusual mix of libertarians, fiscally 
conservative Democrats, conservative Republicans, home-schoolers, vegans, 
gambling aficionados, anti-abortion activists and others who want the government
to butt out of some aspect of their lives.

But will they get out to vote on primary day?

"I've never seen a group of people that are this energetic about a candidate," 
Mr. Murphy said. "It's something else."

That sentiment is shared by Republicans who have observed numerous New Hampshire
primaries. The level of enthusiasm for Mr. Paul is remarkable, they say. It 
transcends the state's Libertarian base (about 4% of the electorate). And by 
many accounts, Mr. Paul's backers here are more energized and committed than are
supporters of Mr. Giuliani, who may enjoy inflated poll numbers because of his 
celebrity status.

National attention is focused on the horse races between Hillary Clinton and 
Barack Obama, and between Messrs. McCain and Romney. But the shy obstetrician 
from Texas could be the surprise story of the New Hampshire primary.

Mr. Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Copyright © 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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