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Ron Paul, Dr. No-body, beats Rudy and Fred -- again

January 16, 2008 |  2:58 am

Well, he's hanging in there. Not only that, but Rep. Ron Paul thumped two reputed Republican heavyweights in the Michigan primary -- former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Who'd have predicted that a couple of months ago?

Giuliani, you may recall if you can remember anything as distant as last summer, was the longtime GOP national front-runner in polls. He ran strongly against everybody in his party, even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won one last night, taking his home state from Sen. John McCain, who won there in 2000. Everybody wondered if anyone had a chance against the hero of 9/11, who defied standard Republican theocracy with his liberal social views.

But guess what? Ron Paul, the 72-year-old Texas congressman and ob-gyn who delivers babies and a strict view of the Constitution, beat Giuliani in Michigan. And beat him good. Not only that ...

he doubled Giuliani's totals of 24,000 votes, or 2.8%, getting more than 52,000 votes, or 6.3%, of the total Republican ballots.

Paul even beat Thompson this time, the real consistent conservative who was supposed to be the next Ronald Reagan until he actually announced his campaign in September. Thompson got about 31,000 votes, or 3.7%, which is more than Rudy but still less than the nobody congressman with the libertarian views whom few people but his passionate partisans took seriously months ago. He's often called Dr. No for his consistent congressional votes against spending.

Paul was so written off that Fox News banned him from its recent debate in New Hampshire. Oops, now the Paulunteers are organizing a boycott of Fox sponsors in return for the snub, a move that Dennis Kucinich's fans are now calling for against MSNBC for barring him from Tuesday's Democratic debate in Las Vegas.

True, Romney killed all his Republican competitors in Michigan, as he had to, with more than 326,000 votes, nearly 39%, with McCain trailing at 29.7%, or 248,000. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee garnered less than half of Romney's votes, 135,000, or 16%.

And it's also true that Thompson and Giuliani didn't really campaign seriously in Michigan. Or New Hampshire. Or Iowa except for a last-minute Thompson bus tour. Obviously, both Giuliani and Thompson are intentionally laying back, trying to make the rest of the Republican field overconfident. No doubt.

Paul hasn't won anything yet, either, except the continued devotion of his followers and growing national attention, including two national TV appearances on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" plus a full hour on "Meet the Press." On Tuesday, Richard Viguerie, the noted conservative author, announced he's launching a website to support Paul. Viguerie called Paul "truly a principled conservative in the grand tradition of Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan."

Paul just keeps picking up his 6% to 10% each time there's a vote. But Paul also beat Giuliani in Iowa. And he came pretty close to Giuliani in New Hampshire and did, in fact, beat Thompson there. And now in Michigan, Paul beat them both rather handily. He does it by going against virtually all the views of his GOP colleagues, including opposing the Iraq war.

Fueled by the generous donations of Paul believers, the congressman was probably the most successful GOP fundraiser in the fourth quarter, acquiring nearly $20 million then and, according to his website, more than $834,000 more so far this month. He's already launched an eight-state ad blitz and has been campaigning in recent days in South Carolina, where he has three offices and will return later this week, and across Nevada. He got skunked in Wyoming, where Romney won, but imagine if Paul scored big one day in the wild West, where many people believe government got too big about 100 years ago.

Paul's website and new campaign blog claim to have quietly organized more than 7,800 precinct captains around the country. Meantime, Giuliani's top staff is going unpaid this month to save dwindling funds. Is there a pattern here?

So, while the "front-running" Republicans each win one state and no one builds up a head of steam, Paul just keeps hanging around, like a bad cold. Some of the other Republican candidates should be careful, lest they get the sniffles one of these days.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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