Paul Campaign Buoyed by Nevada Finish
By Jose Antonio Vargas
Riding high off Rep. Ron Paul's best finish thus far in the Republican campaign, a second-place result Saturday in Nevada, Paul backers launched the latest in a series of "money-bombs" designed to swell the Texas congressman's campaign account.
Timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this appeal for donations had raised approximately $1.25 million as of 6 p.m. EST. That brings Paul's fundraising in 2008 to more than $2.6 million, most of it from the Internet, heading into the Florida primary and Super Tuesday.
Paul's previous fundraising -- he brought in $20 million in the last quarter of 2007 -- paid offline, on-the-ground dividends in Nevada, where the campaign employed about two dozen staffers and ran radio advertisements, said Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign spokesman.
"If you look at the raw vote totals so far, we're about tied with Fred Thompson, and we have more than doubled Rudy Giuliani's," Benton noted.
Paul has also finished ahead of Giuliani in four of the six states so far -- Iowa, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.
Paul also benefited in Nevada from volunteers who organized on the Web and took time off from work to help out with door-to-door canvassing, such as Vijay Boyapati. Boyapati left his engineering job at Google to help campaign for Paul. He moved to New Hampshire last fall, weeks before the primary, then relocated to Nevada a few days before the state's caucuses, renting a few houses where 20 volunteers camped out.
Paul continues to trail in national polls and struggles to get mainstream news attention -- he was excluded from a Fox News forum earlier this month. Yet his online popularity dominates the Republican field.
"Ron Paul's personal appeal and message has not changed much since he ran for president in 1988," said Michael Cornfield, a George Washington University professor whose specialty is the study of political online strategy. "His 2008 campaign excites more popular passion, given the drama of seeing him take on the other Republicans in debates. But his campaign also benefits from the Net.
"He pulled one-half of one percent of the vote in the general election in 1988," Cornfield added. "He's doing a lot better than that today. The money and blog buzz generated about Ron Paul has him literally aloft."
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