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Viva Revolution! Understanding the Ron Paul Phenomenon

Ron Paul

Rep. Ron Paul (AP Photo)

In an election cycle filled with fascinating storylines, the rise of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) may be the most fascinating.

Paul's decision to end his bid for president yesterday and transform his presidential campaign into a broader movement -- organized under the banner of the "Campaign for Liberty" -- got The Fix thinking about where Paul came from and what he means in the broader political world.

Prior to his bid for the Republican nomination this year, Paul had served three different times in the House, including a seven-month stint in 1976 and a longer stay from 1978 to 1984. Paul made a run for president as a Libertarian in 1988 and then returned to the House in 1996.

There is little in his career to suggest that Paul would become the phenomenon that he has undoubtedly become in this presidential election. Aside from a strict adherence to libertarian principles -- an adherence that earned Paul the nickname "Dr. No" for his tendency to vote against any legislation that extended the government's role beyond that specifically enumerated in the Constitution -- Paul was regarded as something of an oddball in the House.

So, where did the Paul phenomenon come from? How did a GOP back-bencher in Congress raise $35 million, including more than $4 million on a single day? How did he draw enough support to plan a counter-convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul while his party will be formally nominating John McCain as its standard-bearer?

The short answer is that there is no short answer. But in our poll below we've laid out a few of the most plausible options. Make sure to vote and let your voice be heard about the Paul effect.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 13, 2008; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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