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Ron Paul's money draws fresh attention

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 29 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Ron Paul's head-snapping fundraising puts a new face on a campaign that the media, politicians and much of the public had relegated to the sidelines.

The Texas congressman is now the presidential candidate tugging at the establishment's coat.

Funneled almost entirely through the Internet, Paul's one-day loot totaled $4.2 million from about 37,000 donors, considered the largest sum ever collected online in a single day by a GOP candidate.

Paul is indeed an online force who attracts support from people who do not fit easily into the standard Democratic and Republican political pigeonholes. His fame, as much as it is, stems from the political shorthand that has defined his candidacy: The only Republican opposed to the war in Iraq.

But Paul leans libertarian in his ideology and cites the Constitution as his guide. He opposes law enforcement or anti-terrorism measures that he believes encroach on civil liberties. His views on small government extend to weakening if not eliminating the Education Department. He favors limiting immigration and strengthening border security.

In that sense, he appeals to voters who may be happy mixing and matching their political views.

To other Republicans, Paul represents an enigma. Does his support suggest a potential base of support that could surprise them two months from now on caucus day in Iowa or primary day in New Hampshire? Or does the money he is collecting from this below-the-radar base buy him support among more traditional, mainstream voters?

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen said Paul has the potential to upend the early primaries with a third or fourth-place finish in the state, above some of the candidates who are expected to be among the top contenders.

"He's got potential because there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is opposed to the war and is maybe anti-internationalist," Cullen said. "The Pat Buchanan wing of the party, if you will."

Pat Buchanan used an isolationist message and opposition to international trade deals to win the 1996 Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire.

"He has that segment of the electorate all to himself," Cullen said.

Cullen said Paul does not appear to be pulling support away from any of the leading Republican candidates, and that his backing is coming from new or disaffected voters. It's an assessment that the Paul campaign does not dispute.

"My hunch would be that a lot of the new donors who are coming in are people who have not been involved in politics," said Jonathan Bydlak, Paul's fundraising director.

A check of Paul's Internet support shows a vast array of fans. Libertarian sites sing his praises, as do anti-war veterans and voters angry at the Internal Revenue Service and at what they perceive is government intrusion.

He also attracts support in some fringe, anti-Semitic or white supremacist Web sites, even though Paul himself strongly rejects those views.

"He has this very small but very enthusiastic group of supporters," said Republican strategist David Winston, who has studied the political use of new media. "It gives him the resources, but his problem is what's the message that grows his support? That he has been unable to solve."

Paul, who raised a stunning $5.2 million in the third quarter of the year, is devoting a significant amount of resources to New Hampshire. He is running a $1.1 million television advertising campaign and his lawn signs are common. He recently sent out a 12-page piece of mail throughout the state as well.

He plans to be in the state on Wednesday and again on Friday. He stops include visits to The Telegraph, the newspaper in Nashua, and a taping with the state's dominant television station WMUR-TV in Manchester. He has eight paid staffers in the state.

Members of the libertarian Free State Project, which adopted New Hampshire in 2003, were Paul's initial toehold in the first-primary state, whose motto is "Live Free or Die." But spokeswoman Kate Rick said that base has grown.

"There's a lot of irritated social conservatives and traditional conservatives," she said. "I think we're also drawing support from independents in the state whose issues may be everything from anti-war to anti-tax or disliking things like No Child Left Behind or how Social Security or Medicaid is being run."

The challenge for Paul is to overcome the riddle posed by Winston:

"Money is a resource, not an outcome."