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News shocker: Ron Paul was biggest GOP fundraiser last quarter

February 1, 2008 |  2:22 am

Well, it's official, ladies and gentlemen. Believe it or not, Rep. Ron Paul, the 72-year-old Texan who hardly ever gets mentioned in Republican political news and the one-time libertarian who always gets the least time on TV debates if he isn't barred completely, was, in fact, the most successful Republican fundraiser in the last three months of 2007.

By a Texas mile.

By the thousands, Paul's fervent followers donated $19.95 million to the "Ron Paul Revolution." He spent $17.75 million, and at year's end, had $7.8 million cash on hand, making him the only Republican candidate to increase his fundraising totals in every quarter of 2007. According to his website, Paul's Paulunteers have contributed another $4.1 million this month to...

fuel the strict constitutionalist's travels and advertising campaign.

Compare that impressive financial success with, say, ex-candidate Rudy Giuliani, who raised only $14.4 million from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 and spent $18.2 million.

Or the departed Fred Thompson, who collected $8.9 million and spent $13.9 million.

Or even the newly-minted Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain, who raked in only $9.9 million, spent $10.5 million and had only $2.9 million cash in hand. Of course, McCain's string of primary victories in January will have boosted his financial fortunes. Everybody loves a winner.

Mitt Romney actually raised only $9.2 million from other people last quarter, less than half of Paul's haul. However, the former Massachusetts governor -- and if he keeps spending at this rate, the quite possibly former multimillionaire -- gave himself $18 million more of his own money last fall for a total of $27.2 million and $2.4 million cash on hand.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who's had trouble raising money, issued an unusual statement Thursday night. "My presidential campaign," he said, "has defied the odds and will continue to do so, as we head into the Super Tuesday primaries, proving the power of message over money and mechanics."

The statement did not include any Huckabee figures for the fourth quarter. Which suggests that the winner of the Republican caucuses in Iowa didn't have a very good fourth quarter.

So a certain suspicious blogger, led by the experienced hand of The Times' campaign finance expert Dan Morain, went to the website of the Federal Election Commission and looked up Huckabee's fourth-quarter report. It seems he raised about $6.7 million, a third of Paul's sum, while spending $7.08 million, leaving him on New Year's Eve with cash on hand of only $651,300.68. No wonder he didn't mention numbers in the news release.

Now, this month Huckabee will have received some donations after his Jan. 3 Iowa win. But it does raise serious questions about how long the Arkansan can continue to compete after Feb. 5 or even how much he can do before other than get on as many free radio and TV shows as possible.

Paul, who's done well in some symbolic straw polls and little-noticed state caucuses until his best showing so far as a second-place finisher to Romney in the Nevada caucuses, has repeatedly disavowed a third-party effort if his bid to be the Republican nominee in St. Paul next summer falls short.

His determined followers maintain that a news media conspiracy is holding down Paul's success at the polls, although obviously word has gotten out to somebody for him to raise such sums. Paul's outspoken stands, including withdrawal from Iraq and drastic downsizing of the federal government, run counter to each of his GOP competitors.

As for Paul's campaign, his loyal troops plan another "money bomb," a big fundraising day, today in honor of Ron and Carol Paul's 51st wedding anniversary. One of the obvious gifts: the undisputed GOP fundraising championship for the last three months of 2007.

--Andrew Malcolm

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