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If you were looking at Ron Paul’s polling over the recent weeks – with the exception of the Iowa Straw Poll – you could easily write him off to the history books. When Ron Paul won the Iowa Straw Poll it seemed to contradict his average polling which, according to the RealClearPolitics poll of polls, is around seven percent. In 2007 I wasn’t following the GOP nominations as I am now and so didn’t know how candidates ranked then. A quick search led me to some polling from this month four years ago. In a poll conducted for WMUR-CNN, Romney was flying ahead in the polls with 28 percent of the vote, with McCain and Guiliani tied on 20 percent. While Romney’s lead now is much wider, he still does not have a lock on the nomination. Ron Paul has something that, at least from an outside perspective, the other candidates do not seem to share; the grassroots element.
Grassroots politics and in particular, digital grassroots politics, played a big part in Obama’s win in 2008. It was hard to find a webpage without a link to something about Obama, you couldn’t go on Youtube without finding a comment about Obama, there was an Obama social network set up, people had Obama buttons all over their sites, ‘Yes We Can’ was plastered on Facebook and MySpace, people in little old England were talking about him; he was practically inescapable. The digital grassroots politics had definitely had a dramatic effect. Now, I’m not expecting Ron Paul to drum up a similar grassroots experience to Obama, but compared to the rest of the Republican field he’s leading by far.
Here’s a few digital grassroots search results. A quick Google search for Ron Paul shows 44.2 million results, for Mitt Romney shows 22.7 million results and for Michelle Bachmann shows 15.8 million. A quick Youtube search shows 1.04 million videos for Ron Paul, 6,410 (yes, thousand) for Mitt Romney and 6,040 for Michele Bachmann.
In a search for candidate ‘forums’, Mitt Romney’s number one result points to a Topix forum that has about 12 topics updated each day, and his second to Mitt Romney Central Forums, which has 200 posts on it in total. The search for ‘Michelle Bachmann forums,’ shows a topic on an overclocking forum up top, followed by a Topix forum that almost has a post an hour on it. A search for ‘Ron Paul forums’ links to the website Ron Paul Forums.
In the past 24 hours, there have been 9681 users active on the forums, 973 of which were members and the others guests. At this moment in time (considering it is 6:46 am on the East Coast), there are 34 members online and 249 guests online. With just under 30,000 members and over 3 million posts, it is without a doubt the largest discussion site for any GOP candidate. The biggest forum on the site is the ‘Ron Paul Grassroots Central’. Grassroots support for Ron Paul is undeniably strong. Ron Paul’s support in 2008 was strong amongst a select few, but it is expanding now. As said by Politico (“Ron Paul goes mainstream?“), “Ron Paul 2008 was a movement. Ron Paul 2012 is trying to be a campaign.”
A lot has changed over the past four years in America. The discontent with Obama’s policies gave birth to the Tea Party movement, the most deep-rooted of all grassroots movements. And while Ron Paul is trailing in third in most voting intention polls, a grassroots movement as strong as the Tea Party could change the GOP race. Doug Wead at Newsmax raised some very interesting points (“Tea Party’s Pick: Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul?“): that Bachmann is a “poor poster girl for freedom from big government,” she voted for Pelosi’s stimulus package, she’s only a 1-term congresswoman compared to Paul’s 12-terms, that polling at the moment is all over the place, and that Ron Paul’s support has stayed strong throughout the years.
The final point there is a testament to Ron Paul’s grassroots and to his ideology. Ron Paul offers an ideological approach that is radical, something that the other main contenders do not. His supporters stay with him because he, more than other candidates, embodies what they believe in. Over the past four years, Obama has shown that America needs experience in terms of the economy, the deficit and jobs. If you drop into the Ron Paul forums, you will notice hundreds of topics saying that Ron Paul not only has the answer to all of these problems, but foresaw them in the first place (and was the only candidate to do so).
It is now the job of the grassroots movement and the digital grassroots movement to get this message out. The message is the right one, time will tell whether the voices will be loud enough.