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Should Ron Paul be allowed at Sunday's debate?

January 1, 2008 |  3:44 am

There seems to be a debate going on between Fox News and New Hampshire Republicans over precisely who will participate in this weekend's presidential debate.

Rumor has it that online fundraising sensation and Texas congressman Ron Paul and San Diego congressman Duncan Hunter will be excluded because their N.H. poll numbers are not in double digits, although Paul's fourth quarter fundraising numbers were way into double digits, nearing $20 million, according to his website. In the first 240 minutes of the new year, nearly $11,000 more came in.

Over the weekend a Fox News spokeswoman told Top of the Ticket that the New Hampshire Republican Party was making the choice of candidates to participate in the televised GOP presidential debate on Jan. 6 with Chris Wallace moderating. She even provided the chairman's e-mail: fergus@nhgop.org to confirm that. Alas, the chairman never responded to us.

Then, on Monday, that state party chair, Fergus Cullen, issued a statement saying that limiting candidates was not in the party's tradition, suggesting the media should not be in the ....

business of excluding serious candidates and talks were continuing with Fox.

So whose decision is it?

Understandably, neither side apparently wants to incur the online wrath of Paul's passionate parishioners, who scour the Internet around the clock and descend like locusts on any opportunity to praise Paul or right perceived wrongs on any website or blog they can find. If word got out that Fox/News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's e-mail was rmurdoch@newscorp.com, his mailbox would be full in a flash.

Paul's supporters have set up a special protest website to marshal support, as well as urge his fervent followers as follows:

"We need to send a message to Fox's Rupert Murdoch & his fellow Neocon buddies that he is not Musharraf and the U.S. is not Pakistan, yet!  Fox News cannot just stifle public opinion, debate and impact a primary election by excluding Ron Paul just because they don't like his message of freedom and liberty. Cover them up with e-mails and they will just say it was a mistake or miscommunication.  Be respectful as all of the e-mail addresses below are just employees trying to keep their jobs with the world's largest media monopoly."

The mainstream media -- or msm -- are a particular target of Paul's vociferous followers, an eclectic mix of libertarians and disaffected Republicans, Democrats and, until now, non-voters. Outspoken to say the least, they disregard stories like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. They believe that major newspapers and broadcast networks have conspired to pay insufficient attention to Dr. Paul, a 72-year-old ob-gyn and 10-term House member, citing his low numbers in polls, which Paulites believe are self-fulfilling frauds designed to cause voters to invest their votes in more traditional candidates with a seemingly more realistic chance of winning.

Only when these followers, led by a mysterious amateur musician and fundraiser, began making their average $100 campaign donations by the thousands last fall, setting a new one-day online record in excess of $6 million and making Paul the only Republican candidate to increase his donations every quarter in 2007, did the media begin paying attention. But no amount of attention seems sufficient for Paulites, who complain when there is no coverage and then complain again about any coverage they do get. Watch the comments section below.

They gather in chatrooms and more than 1,200 meet-up groups across the country to paint signs, write letters, organize marches and protests, support each other and otherwise promote the Ron Paul Revolution, which they believe will arrive when primary voting starts.

Some 300 young Paul supporters have been in caucus-training camps in Iowa in recent days and are shooting for maybe a stunning third-place there ahead of more famous fellows like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. And they hope to possibly do even better in New Hampshire where the state slogan "Live Free or Die" would seem to lend itself to their cause.

But first fights first. Iowa this Thursday. The Fox forum on Sunday. Then on to New Hampshire and beyond, carrying Dr. Paul's antiabortion, antiwar, strict constitutionalist banner.

--Andrew Malcolm

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