By Karin Caifa in Arlington, VA
There's something intriguing about a long shot bid for the White House. Particularly when that White House bid brings in $5.1 million in a single fundraising quarter.
At the back of the pack in Republican polls, Texas congressman Ron Paul stunned the political world last week when he announced a $5.1 million fundraising haul for the third quarter. Fueled by a strong grassroots web movement, Paul raised nearly as much money as Arizona Sen. John McCain, and five times as much as the most-talked about GOP dark horse Mike Huckabee.
Thursday night Paul was in northern Virginia, where he spoke to the Robert Taft Club, a group of conservatives and libertarians who reject the idea of big government at home. Billed as a foreign policy speech, Paul wove his anti-war message with tenets of fiscal conservatism, citing the expense of U.S. military action in Iraq as the chief reason for the recent decline of the American dollar. He warned of runaway inflation at home here in the U.S. as a consequence of prolonged mililtary involvement overseas.
Many of the presidential candidates have noted the fifth anniversary this week of the vote that authorized military action in Iraq. Paul was one of a handful of House Republicans to vote against it. "Now we're in a mess, and for those who voted for it who are running for the presidency, the debate is on," Paul said, "But they should have debated it five years ago."
Upstairs, members of a Meetup.com group of supporters based in nearby Manassas, Virginia, put down their large Ron Paul signs and sat down at a sidewalk table. Chad, the chief organizer of the group, sporting a black t-shirt reading, "Who is Ron Paul? " answered that question by simply saying, "He's honest."
As Chad sipped on pomengranate green tea, he spoke of how he discovered Ron Paul in the late 1990s, as he watched the Texas congressman waged a battle to have cameras inside the Federal Reserve. Chad started mobilizing in February of this year, even though he's never voted for a Democrat or Republican candidate before. He says that he goes to the polls to fulfill his civic duty, but usually votes for himself as a write-in vote since he rarely finds a candidate who matches his libertarian views.
But that changed with Paul. "I found I agreed with him on about 80 percent of what he said. And he's been so consistent throughout his career."
Adam, seated at the same table as Chad, said he heard Paul speak for the first time on a radio show earlier this year. When he did his research, Adam was pleased to find what he calls, "a full constitutionalist."
The three hope to hit the road and head to Iowa and New Hampshire in advance of the nation's first nominating contests. But for now they're getting the word out closer to home, taking trips to Pennsylvania and Baltimore to answer that question, "Who is Ron Paul?"