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Trying to grasp the Ron Paul phenomenon...

Beware of Ron Paul

By Francesco

Oegstgeest, the Netherlands, 2 October 2007

Many articles enjoy telling you Ron Paul cannot win the election, for this or that reason, and 1001 others. Much can be said to question the method or the importance of some of these factors. One can think of the value of telephonic polling in a society where many do not use landlines anymore, the aggressive questions and replies Ron Paul receives during debates and interviews, as well as the relative silence on Ron Paul in mainstream media coverage of the candidates, and many, many more. However, since you are probably familiar with most of them, let us, for the sake of balance, explore a few reasons why he could surprise friends and foes alike and perform well.

Campaign funds

In the last week of the quarter alone (week between September 24 and September 30 2007), he raised a little over $1.22 Million from 14,000 online donations only, more than all of the Democrats except Obama and Hillary, and likely more than any of the other Republican candidates. Ron Paul raised more than $3 million in the whole third quarter, up from $2.4 million in the second quarter and $641,000 in the first three months of the year. A clear rising trend is visible here.

Internet traffic

The website Hitwise, which monitors US internet traffic for commercial purposes, has a section on the US Presidential race. Besides having elected Ron Paul as candidate of the month, and having dedicated a short document to him which is quite interesting to read, there are many other interesting facts to be found. First of all, the section titled “Top Republican Candidate 2008 Websites” lists websites for the Republican candidates of 2008 Presidential elections based on US Internet usage for the week between September 15 and September 22, put Ron Paul on top with 29.52%, slightly over Fred Thompson with 26.21% and far above the other candidates (Giuliani 9.08% and Romney 6.99%).

Yet another section of the website, titled “Top 10 Presidential Candidate 2008 Search Terms”, shows the most used candidate related terms listed ranked by volume of searches that successfully drove traffic to websites in the Hitwise Politics - President - All Candidates category between August 22 and September 22, 2007, based on US Internet usage. If one adds the percentages shown after the terms “Ron Paul” to those appearing after “Ron Paul 2008” the total is 9.44% and makes him again rank first. Fred Thompson is still rather close (7.79%) whilst after Biden (Democrat with 5.03%) who comes third the rest falls behind considerably. Interestingly enough, neither Giuliani nor McCain are in the top ten, which means their volume is less than the lowest value, 1.59%.

Another internet factor which constitutes and fuels a significant portion of Ron Paul’s support is the meet up facilitating website meetup.com, which has, as of October 2, some 50.000 members worldwide, with about 950 groups and some 7.650 meetings held. YouTube, the video sharing site, as of October 2, returns more than 31.000 videos on “Ron Paul” and Ron Paul’s YouTube channel has some 29.500 subscribers and almost 4.4 million hits. It is vital to delve more into comparing Ron Paul and other candidates in YouTube performance, which is important as it shows videos by candidates’ enthusiasts, TV and radio interviews, debate clips, official campaign messages and much more. This means this channel filled with information and discussion represents one of the clearest manifestations of what many do to explore candidates by themselves, out of the control and steering by mainstream media outlets. Also, the fact that YouTube has and will partner with some of the actual debates made the link of YouTube and political awakening much stronger. So, here we go, as of October 2 candidates have so many videos (v), subscriptions (s) and hits (h): John McCain about 2.250v, 1.600s and 480.000h; Mitt Romney about 2.460v, 3.000s and 780.000h; Rudy Giuliani about 2.300v, 2.500s and 655.000h; Fred Thompson 1.300v, 1.600s and 88.000h combined*; Barack Obama 6.000v, 11.200s and 11.300.000h; Hillary Clinton 9.240v, 6.100s and 930.000h and John Edwards 5.300v, 4.200s and 630.000h. Ron Paul clearly then towers above his opponents in both party. Only on one piece of data does he have to concede to Obama, those 11 million hits. Still, I cannot stop to feel they are inflated, maybe because of the fact that Obama’s page has 200 own videos whilst Paul’s page has only 51, but many more self-made ones by his supporters (and those probably do not count towards the total hits on the YouTube channel of the respectful candidate).

Wikipedia is also a major factor to take into account. At this time during the run up to the last presidential election, the website was in its infancy. In July of 2003, the online encyclopedia attracted less than half a million US visitors. In July of 2007 it was over 41 million people, or 1 in 4 people online in the US. Wikipedia is now the 12th most visited website and is likely to play a significant role in informing and influencing those who will choose our next president. Using the tables provided on the Compete.com website, which provides information on every site on the Internet including site traffic history and competitive analytics, some remarkable results surface. It must be said that the statistics are from July, which means that now, the more the primaries approach, it is likely that the amount of views will be much higher, and some of the other factors may change as well. Here are the results for the top five candidates respectively, unique views of the web pages of the candidates (v), the average amount of time in minutes spent on the page (t), the overall Wikipedia users’ share dedicated to this candidate(s) and the percentage of those who also visited the candidate’s campaign web site(c):

Ron Paul 30.960v, 10.22t, 22%s, 42%c;
Mike Gravel 10.505v, 8.83t, 6%s, 45%c;
Barack Obama 41.007v, 7.06t, 20%s, 14%c;
Dennis Kucinich 12.431v, 6.94t, 6%s, 25%c;
Fred Thompson 24.160v, 5.50t, 9%s, 19%c;

Again, Ron Paul is far ahead of the others, especially other Republicans, as Fred Thompson is the only other in the top five. Surprisingly, the numbers of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani and Romney are very low.

Finally, MySpace, Technorati and Facebook also show scores of Ron Paul supporters. Doubtlessly there are more support channels which escape my attention. Nonetheless, these results combined set Ron Paul way ahead of other candidates in internet as well as meet up popularity.

Straw polls

Another important factor is the straw polls. Not all of them involve significant numbers of people, but by having many of these straw polls and taking an average some relevant conclusions can still be drawn using the table provided on the Ron Paul website. It was updated up to the most recent September 30 straw poll in Georgia. On a total of 29 straw polls, Ron Paul’s average ranking was 2.31 and his average percentage of votes was 29.97 %, quite impressive values. This resulted in 13 wins, 5 second and 5 third spots.
However, as I noticed he seems to perform better the more recent the polls are, I recalculated the totals to pitch July, August and September against one another. The results could give us a good projection of future straw polls and overall popularity of the Ron Paul campaign on the ground. July, with only 4 straw polls, returned an average ranking of 2.25 and an average percentage of votes of 28.05%. August, with 14 straw polls, returned an average ranking of 2.5 and an average percentage of votes of 30.42%. September, with 9 straw polls, returned an average ranking of 2.1 and an average percentage of votes of 34.33%. In conclusion, there seems to be a light increase in performance, and it remains overall quite strong for a candidate at the margins of mainstream media.

Mainstream media

It seems Ron Paul is riding the wave of recognition by countless internet users turning this popularity into more “tangible” mainstream attention. Until recently, he was mostly silenced to death in mainstream media besides during the debates and a few interviews, in most of which he has been quite strongly, and often unfairly, attacked. Since the last week of September however, Forbes, USA Daily, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! News, CBS News, Baltimore Sun have written about him. More surprisingly, the tone of most articles was neutral or appreciative towards him and his campaign, with the notable exception of the Yahoo! News story. This obviously needs to expand rapidly for Ron Paul if he is to get more support easily. The longer this relative silence will last, the more efforts Ron Paul and his campaign will have to put into getting his name out. So far, it has worked rather well nonetheless.

Gallup poll

A poll taken in July shows that 58% of US citizens think both parties are doing such a bad job that a third one is needed. What does this mean? Most probably the same as when Americans in 2006 overwhelmingly installed a Democratic Congress: “Get out of Iraq”, as well as probable general dissatisfaction with the federal government, as consistent low approval ratings of Bush indicate. The message resonating seems to be one a genuine and heartfelt wish for a refreshing style of politics, something out of the box, “out of the parties” and recent political trends.

Conclusion

How many choices made out of fear or between a lesser of two evils have had negative consequences, especially pitched against choices we wholeheartedly supported and inspired us beyond the normal? Examining that for our own lives will certainly result in many sad and disillusioned faces. It is not necessary.
“Experts” say Ron Paul can’t win. Experts once said the world was flat. Experts once held that it was impossible to split atoms. Experts once believed it was impossible for humans to ever fly. While it is too cheap to dismiss people as “evil”, it would be fair to believe many if not most of these experts had genuine concerns and objections, it is good to question why experts make certain claims. Usually you will find that it is simply easier to live in the status quo for those who comfortably live it, simply that. By the same token, those who wish to change a status quo are not always “good”. That is why it is important to let our enquiring and curious human nature do its thing: experiment, learn and adapt.

Imagine if above beliefs had never been questioned. What kind of world would we live in today? Those who challenged these and others were and are sadly still deemed as lunatics, unpatriotic, idiots, spineless, conspiracy-nuts, nutjobs, morons and what more. Only after a long and painful process are their claims sometimes, often too late or never, restored to justice. This process is captured rather brilliantly in the following quote by German philosopher Schopenhauer who holds that

All truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

If Ron Paul is to make a serious chance and you believe in his message, he needs your help to get at stage three quickly.

Finally, remember to be careful of what others tell you to think, including the present author, search for the possible reason behind the message being told. I therefore should state mine, which is simply to communicate a vision of hope, liberty, freedom, responsibility and maturity that longs for a warm embrace.

I believe that this is embodied by a sane, inspirational and positive vision Ron Paul has for America and, indirectly, for the world. Should we embrace it?

* Fred Thompson seems to have 2 official channels. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I added both totals.

All statistics used are publicly available online. If you cannot find them and want them, please email me on below email. The author can be seen on YouTube in 6 videos addressing aspects of Ron Paul’s message and campaign (username "maranelloboy"). Also, the author can be reached at maranelloboy(at)gmail.com for comments