The Ron Paul Moment

Ron Paul raised over $1 million online in only 24 hours on Thursday, outmatched every other GOP contender against Barack Obama in a hypothetical 2012 match up, and won over the crowd at the Republican Presidential Debate in South Carolina. Thomas Eddlem at The New American had to ask: “Is this the Ron Paul moment?”

In 2007 and 2008, while sharing the stage with a crowded ticket of several high-profile presidential hopefuls, the little-known congressman from Texas stood out from all the others and became the focus of intense national attention, drawing a large and quite energetic following– as well as many harsh critics. He fearlessly criticized the Bush-era foreign policy, DC’s out of control spending, and the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy.  He also argued, that among his opponents, he was the only true champion of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ philosophy of limited government, and his campaign literature listed all the reasons his record in office proved it.

After standing out so boldy in such a crowded ticket in 2008, it was easy to anticipate the strong presence Ron Paul would have in this Thursday’s debate, sharing a stage with only four other contenders: two little-known governors from small states, a former senator, and a pizza chain CEO. In terms of fundraising prowess, name-recognition, and national profile, Ron Paul already had all of his opponents bested. The other big name potential candidates like Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee were absent from the debate.

Despite the moderators’ pleas for no applause, the audience vigorously applauded most of Ron Paul’s answers, even including the hope he expressed that with Osama bin Laden’s death, America might reevaluate its wars in Central Asia, which Paul said haven’t helped us and haven’t helped anyone in the Middle East. Typically known for being somewhat dry and academic when he speaks, Ron Paul even drew two big laughs from the crowd. When asked if he had been eclipsed in the Tea Party movement by Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul elicited laughs by answering, “Well, she’s not here tonight…”

When questioned about his libertarian principles and pressed for why he believes prostitution and hard drugs should be issues left for the states to decide, Ron Paul drew laughter, loud applause, and even enthusiastic whoops from the audience by saying sarcastically: “Oh yeah! I need the government to take care of me– I don’t want to use heroin so I need these laws!” Moderator Chris Wallace marvelled, “I never thought heroin would get applause here in South Carolina.”

Following the debate Thursday, a little after midnight, Ron Paul’s online fundraising total for the previous 24 hours pushed passed the million dollar mark. He and his supporters had organized a “money bomb,” a single day of massive online donations, a strategy which earned Paul headlines in 2007 for raising more money than any candidate in either party for the final quarter of that year. This year already, Ron Paul raised over $3 million in the first quarter alone for his various political organizations.

The real shock came, however, just hours before the debate, when Ron Paul headlined The Drudge Report for coming out on top of a CNN poll released earlier that day. For a candidate dogged by questions about his electability, Ron Paul was vindicated Thursday when he outperformed every other GOP contender in a hypothetical match-up against President Obama in 2012. Paul beat out Romney by four points, Gingrich by ten points, Palin by twelve points, and Trump– who said at CPAC this year that there is “zero chance” Ron Paul could ever be elected– by a whopping fifteen points.

From the beginning, commentators and Ron Paul’s own supporters considered his 2008 candidacy a long shot, but there are already strong indicators that 2012 could go differently. Not only is Ron Paul now “in play” as a realistic contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, he’s starting to look very competitive.