Ron Paul's $5 million third-quarter fundraising haul, bigger than all of the lower-tier candidates combined and within striking distance of some of the frontrunners, has turned some heads. Does it mean that antiwar sentiment has reached critical mass even among Republican voters and donors? It's a question Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio has asked, noting that Paul's totals are believed to be on par with John McCain's.
"Here's a guy nobody is paying attention to and he's raising real money," Fabrizio told a USA Today reporter, who described the GOP strategist as stunned. "The strongest pro-war candidate and the strongest anti-war candidate raised the same amount of money." David Boaz of the Cato Institute told the Politico, "“Everything that was wrong with the Republicans in 2006, Ron Paul is an answer to."
NRO's Stephen Spruiell downplays Paul's fundraising, noting that it hasn't yet translated into a substantial bump in the polls (though Paul has seen his numbers rise from asterik levels earlier this year to a consistent 2 to 4 percent; in national polls he is frequently tied with media darling Mike Huckabee and occasionally within the margin of error against Mitt Romney). It could also be noted that Paul's fundraising base is augmented by libertarians (of both the small and big L variety) and disaffected antiwar liberals, in addition to more traditional conservative Republicans. These voters won't necessarily crowd the GOP primaries next year, although New Hampshire and several other key states will be open to them.
It is easy to overreact to Paul's fundraising success, which is still a fraction of the money being raised by candidates like Romney (who is his own largest donor) and Rudy Giuliani. But anytime Paul exceeds expectations, it highlights the existence of antiwar sentiment on the Right and influences the political debate over Iraq.