by GEF @ 4:18 PM MST
Republican underdog prepares to spend big bucks on New Hampshire ads
The New York Times
Updated: 9:13 a.m. ET Oct 26, 2007
WASHINGTON – If media muscle is any measure of a candidate, Representative Ron Paul of Texas is getting ready to flex his.
In the last two weeks, Mr. Paul — a Republican presidential candidate — has spent nearly a half-million dollars on radio advertisements in four early primary states, the first major media investment of his campaign. On Tuesday night, he will take a seat opposite Jay Leno.
And on Monday, a campaign spokesman said, he will roll out his first major television advertising campaign, spending $1.1 million on five new commercials to be shown in the New Hampshire market for the next six weeks. (In contrast, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and a rival for the Republican nomination, has yet to commit to any spending for television advertisements.)
Mr. Paul’s commercials are intended to introduce him to voters in New Hampshire, where independents can vote in either primary and where a libertarian streak could give Mr. Paul a chance to translate his popularity into votes.
After raising a surprising $5 million in the third quarter, Mr. Paul has found himself with a significant pile of cash; he has $5.4 million on hand.
His campaign says it is just the beginning: it has set fund-raising goals of $3 million in October, $4 million in November and $5 million in December, marks campaign managers say are within reach. In two days last week, Mr. Paul raised $438,000.
‘It’s time to spend it’
Mr. Paul places no restrictions on who can donate to his campaign, but most of his money comes through the Internet. His campaign said 78 percent of the $5 million in contributions from the third quarter was collected online.
“It’s time to spend it,” said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Mr. Paul.
It is a decidedly traditional strategy for a campaign that has been run largely by an army of enthusiastic volunteers (Mr. Paul’s circle of paid staff members has been small, but will grow, he said), and fervent supporters on the Internet, who have promoted their candidate on blogs and other online forums.
Mr. Benton said the television campaign would be geared toward introducing Mr. Paul to a greater audience — not to attacking fellow Republicans.
In the first commercial, shot last week in New Hampshire, voters present some of the themes of Mr. Paul’s candidacy, including his opposition to the Iraq war and his past as a doctor in a small Texas town.
Mr. Paul, 72, may speak like an outsider but he has represented conservative Republican districts in Texas for 10 terms, and he was the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988. Still, in the Republican debates, he has stood out with his emphatic antiwar, low-tax, anti-immigration, small-government views — the kind of positions that could appeal to people in a state like New Hampshire, where independent voters make up 45 percent of the electorate. Dante J. Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said that if the advertisement campaign was effective, it could convince more independents, libertarians and even moderate Republicans to vote for Mr. Paul. According to a recent Marist College poll, about 15 percent of likely Republican voters in the state were undecided.
A poll released Thursday by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, put Mr. Paul in fourth place in New Hampshire with 7 percent of the vote, behind Senator John McCain of Arizona (15 percent), Mr. Giuliani (22 percent) and Mitt Romney (32 percent), the former governor of Massachusetts.
“It’s striking to me that he’s at 7 percent without running a single TV ad in New Hampshire,” Mr. Scala said. “If he starts to attract significant support among independents, then he could start to hurt Giuliani or McCain.”
‘Fly in the ointment’
Mr. Paul’s Republican rivals may already be taking notice of his newfound purchasing power. During the Oct. 21 Republican debate in Florida, the other candidates treated him more gently than in previous debates, like the one in May when Mr. Giuliani admonished him for suggesting that the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were spurred by American policies in the Middle East.
Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, called Mr. Paul “a fly in the ointment” in the Republican race.
“Just by being out there and pushing a strict constitutional line, I think he’s making them sweat a lot,” Mr. Gillespie said. “He’s highlighting the fact that they will say anything to get elected. Or at least to get through the primary.”
But even as Mr. Paul tries to push into the mainstream, he brings with him an assortment of supporters — Libertarians, independents, socially conservative Democrats, and, less desirable for the campaign, white supremacists and 9/11 conspiracy theorists — who have their own ideas about what his message should be and how he should project it.
Many have been active on the Internet, voicing their thoughts about free markets, the war, taxes and which of those issues they want him to emphasize. Some of his supporters were banned this week by RedState.com, a popular Web site for conservative commentary, from posting comments about Mr. Paul, on the argument that they were liberals masquerading as conservatives.
In an interview as he drove from Washington to his home in Virginia last week — fresh from filming television advertisements that morning — Mr. Paul said his supporters were “making signs and meeting and writing and waving signs and doing all these things.”
“Sometimes we sit around and figure out, ‘I wonder how much value there is from that?’ ” Mr. Paul said.
“They’re totally out of our control,” he added.
Copyright © 2007 The New York Times