dismissed Rep. Ron Paul as a joke in the Republican
presidential primary campaign aren't laughing so hard these
libertarian's rise in the polls and in fundraising proves
that a small but passionate number of Americans can be
drawn to an advocate of unorthodox proposals such as
returning to the gold standard and abolishing the
income tax, CIA, and Federal Reserve.
recently set a one-day, online GOP presidential fund-raising
record, and pulled slightly ahead of Fred Thompson and Mike
Huckabee in a New Hampshire poll, where he had 8% of
the Republicans' support. In Iowa he tied John McCain
for fifth place, with 4% for each.
Paul remains a
very long shot for the nomination. But as the only
Republican candidate backing a prompt troop withdrawal from
Iraq -- and an airing of possible impeachment charges
against Vice President Dick Cheney -- he appeals to a
mix of liberals and conservatives who feel alienated
and deeply distrustful of the government.
extreme left and the extreme right meet, you'll find Ron
Paul,'' said Merle Black, an Emory University political
scientist and coauthor of the book Divided America.
''He strikes a
chord with some segments of the population,'' especially
with his quixotic, uncompromising style, Black said. ''But
there's a pretty low ceiling in terms of his actual
Paul, who earned
a medical degree from Duke University and embraces the
nickname ''Dr. No,'' often casts the only House vote against
proposals he sees as too meddlesome or unworthy of
In recent months
he was the only House member to oppose an expression of
support for Northern Ireland's new power-sharing government,
a condemnation of ''the persecution of labor rights
advocates in Iran'' and a statement citing the
importance of ''providing a voice'' for relatives of
Americans who have vanished.
He was one of two
Republicans to vote against funding the Defense
Department in 2008 and against urging the release of Burmese
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Congress's most prominent advocate of returning to the gold
standard, which the country abandoned in the 1930s. In its
purest form it would mean that all paper currency in
circulation could be redeemed for gold.
the gold standard would curb inflation and boost
confidence in the economy. But others say it would trigger
severe recessions because the Federal Reserve could no
longer manage the money supply in times of economic
For that matter,
Paul would eliminate the Fed altogether as an impediment
to free markets.
talks of eliminating the personal income tax, saying it
provides about 40% of federal revenues, which spending cuts
could absorb. The government's funding level would
approximate that of 2000, he says, although government
statistics put the figure closer to 1995.
In a phone
interview Wednesday, Paul said he is inching up in the polls
''because more people have heard the message.''
He said he was
stunned when supporters raised $4.2 million for him on
November 5, mostly through the Internet. It broke Mitt
Romney's one-day fund-raising record, $3.1 million,
for Republican presidential candidates.
going on,'' Paul said. ''It's all spontaneous,'' he said,
and reflects a hunger for smaller government, greater
adherence to the Constitution, and ''a pro-American
Paul said the
United States should leave the United Nations. ''I don't
like giving up our national sovereignty,'' he said.
should gather intelligence, he said, but dismantle the
CIA, which he accused of blunders and abuses of power.
Democratic-drafted charges that could lead to a House
impeachment vote against Cheney, Paul said, deserve
careful deliberations by congressional committees.
debate moderators typically pay scant attention to Paul and
two other House members seen as fringe candidates. But he
has triggered some crackling exchanges on the Iraq
war, unusual for primary campaign debates in which
most candidates hold similar views.
At a mid-May
debate in South Carolina, Paul infuriated Rudy Giuliani and
others by saying U.S. troops' presence in Saudi Arabia
contributed to al-Qaeda's decision to attack the
United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
''If we think
that we can do what we want around the world and not incite
hatred, then we have a problem,'' Paul said. ''They don't
come here to attack us because we're rich and we're
free. They come and they attack us because we're over
condemned the remarks. But Paul's supporters rhapsodize
about his candor and integrity on Web sites and at
really believe we could find an honest politician,'' said
Cecelia Poole of Elkton, Md., describing how she and her
husband intensely researched Paul's record. First
drawn to Paul's hard-line stance against illegal
immigration, Poole said she found herself agreeing
with him on monetary policy, the war, and other issues.
''He would turn
this country around in the way that it needs to go,''
said Poole, a semiretired mortgage broker. She and her
husband now travel to several states, she said,
''promoting him everywhere we go.'' (Charles