One of the big stories out of the presidential campaign last week was Ron Paul's 3rd quarter fundraising total--somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million (official numbers come out next week). While this amount doesn't quite compare with the piles of dough being raked in by Clinton and Obama, it is roughly the same as what once-frontrunner John McCain reportedly raised during the same period. The fact that Paul was able to raise such a sum during this 3-month period gives him the type of credibility with the news media that a candidate like Kucinich has always struggled to attain. If you want evidence of this, simply turn your attention to the National Journal's Campaign 2008 website. Every other week, the experts at National Journal rank the candidate's from the Democratic or Republican field. A few weeks ago, the experts had essentially banished Paul to the bottom of the ratings. But this week, they have placed him up at #5, just behind John McCain and above Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback (the experts have banished Kucinich and Gravel from the Democratic ratings altogether). In ranking Paul fifth, the National Journal notes, "Look who's crashing the party! His $5 million is impressive because no one on the GOP side is raising BIG bucks."
But is Paul really a force to be reckoned with in this race? Apparently he is in cyberspace, at least. Following the most recent Republican debate, Paul's supporters apparently flooded the media's online polls which, as a result, overwhelmingly showed him winning the debate, despite the fact that he actually received the least amount of air time of any candidate on the stage (some outlets took down their polls because of this activity). Nobody doubts that Paul's supporters are as web savvy as any candidate's followers on the Republican side. But to build on his impressive showing in 3rd quarter fundraising and make a real splash with the traditional media, Paul will have to make a move in the polls somewhere. I'd say his best shot is in New Hampshire, which has a libertarian tradition. There may be some New Hampshire Republicans who were unwilling to support Paul when they thought he had little shot at succeeding. But now that Paul has shown he can at least raise some dough, will those Republicans give him some support in the polls? The polling over the next couple of months should tell us all we need to know. (Of course, his first hurdle is just being listed at all on the Pollster.com graphics).