I was teaching a candidate school recently in Minnesota and wandered into some dangerous territory. Our firm is often hired to do political education and one of our bigger clients is American Majority We teach several sessions that focus on Communications, Campaign Plans, Fundraising, Social Media and Grassroots Organizing (all ppts are available to download and steal here SlideShare )

The last session of the day focuses on Grassroots Organizing Online and Offline. One of the themes I present is how most grassroots movements are viral and require a “host”. I then go on to say that Ron Paul was too weak of a “host” to carry his “movement”. Full disclosure – I was a mail vendor for Fred Thompson’s campaign (that is a whole other discussion) and I did not support Ron Paul. Having said that, I was constantly intrigued by his supporters and his “movement”. I work in the business of political campaigns and like to think I am a student of how they work on a logistics and business end. So for the purposes of this post lets skip by issues and just talk nuts and bolts.

First I have to take a dig at my strident Libertarian friends who loved Dr. Paul – learn a lesson from him

1.       Run as a Libertarian for Congress and lose

2.       Run as a Republican for Congress and win

3.       Run as a Republican for President and get to take the stage, be in the debates and air your issues

Pretty safe to say no one is accusing Dr. Paul of “selling out” even though he ran as a Republican. I can already feel the hate that point is going to draw…

Moving on, Dr. Paul raised over $34 million dollars of which over 99% came from individual small donors. This is a supremely impressive feat for a guy who, candidly, has below average public speaking ability, no message discipline, fairly inexperienced campaign organization and barely eked into double digits in most public polling. So his campaign was obviously not as much about the “product” of the candidate. He benefited from a couple powerful motivators;

1.       A disgruntled and angry free-market fiscal conservative base

2.       A weak field of Republican options for President

3.       A core Libertarian group that was already online

$34 million, unfortunately, is still not enough to get serious traction in a modern Presidential Primary. That is compounded by the fact that his campaign spent almost 50% of their cash on “Administrative” expenses. That is just unacceptable. Barely a third of the dollars spent went towards actual voter contact. Ok, now all my grassroots friends can holler and say “of course that is what an evil money grubbing political consultant would say!” But folks let’s get real, modern campaigns are not small mom and pop businesses any more…especially ones for President. They can start that way but at some point you have to bring in experienced folks to run the ship…having said that the grassroots are still vital and important to success, but they have to have experienced leadership.

Looking back at Howard Dean circa 2003…the guy almost became the democratic nominee and was much more viable than Paul. Both had strong grassroots movements but Dean had some adults in charge at HQ. Ultimately, I think both Dean and Paul were not strong enough vessels for their movements.  So what happened to many of those early Deaniacs? They became the base of Barack Obama’s underdog campaign in early 2007. So why was Barack successful where Dean was not?

1.       Obama is a FAR superior candidate “product” than Howard Dean

2.       Obama’s team of very experienced political folks had a whole list of lessons learned from the Dean Campaign

3.       The online left-roots had only grown larger and stronger since 2003

In short I would propose that Barack Obama would NEVER have gotten off the ground had it not been for Howard Dean.

So if you were a Ron Paulie in 2007 what should you be preparing for? Look for the well spoken Liberty candidate. Can you imagine if Dr. Paul had the TV appeal or speaking skills of a Mike Pence or Jeff Flake? There will be a Republican candidate running in 2012 (in all seriousness they have probably already started) that will carry many of Dr. Paul’s limited government issues, learned from his mistakes and have a more experienced team around them. Don’t know who that “Candidate X” is yet but if you find them let me know.

Candidate X is looking for your passion, your love of liberty and yes your dollars too. That candidate will finally be worth the absolutely incredible effort that so many Paul supporters poured into the 2008 primary.

Be looking for that candidate because they are probably already looking for you.


  • East of Eden

    Chris, what an interesting job you have. It’s like one of those jobs you know has to exist, but you don’t really think about.

    Anyway….I think you are right about Ron Paul in many respects. I always enjoy listening to him, even if he is a little crazy some times. Hopefully, like you said, someone will take the work that he did with this last campaign and take it to the next level.

  • http://www.faulknerstrategies.com chris faulkner

    Thanks for the comments guys. I am really interested in the Goldwater analogy. After a state GOP convention I attended I had a very interesting converstation with a Paul delegate. I said I hope that our party’s poor treatment will not discourage you from staying involved. He said “On no, not at all. I will be back next time and when I do come back I will be Chairman”.
    I think the treatment of many RP delegates to their state conventions was similar to how I have heard Goldwater vets describe their treatment by “the establishment” in the 60s.

  • WilliamK

    I doubt Ron Paul will run in 2012, as some have said he will be around 200 at the time. But your very right, there is another out there who Paul will back who does all you say.

    Paul has been pushing his supporters to be involved at the local level with the Republican party. That alone will make a big difference in 2012 no matter who runs.

    Great post and good explanations.

  • Troy La Mana

    Ron Paul would have had a lot more traction if it were not for the GOP torpedoing him from the beginning because of his stand on Iraq.

    If people would have listened to his articulate position on Iraq (Congress did not do its job and declare war.. again) they might have sided with him more.

    I say that Ron Paul is the person in the White House we need now because he told you this would all happen during the campaign.

    Instead of Obama putting us into a 9 trillion dollar debt Ron Paul would have made the cuts needed to balance the budget and get this government back on a constitutional basis.

    I have said it before and I’ll say it here now:

    Ron Paul is the Barry Goldwater of this generation and there will be someone to rise up from the disaster of this economy and become the New Reagan.

    • Joe Citizen

      We gave Paul the torpedo not just because of his stand on Iraq, but on all defense and foreign intelligence. He would have lost to Obama anyways.

      Being unapologetic defense hawks is a major pillar of the party. He wanted to disband the CIA and withdraw from Iraq based on the technicality that we didn’t declare war. That is a slap in the face to the troops. Besides that we are close to long-term stabilization.

      • Troy La Mana

        The Constitution is not a “technicality”.

        • Cordeiro

          Troy, we’ve already flogged that dead horse to the point that even the bones are dust. For all intents and purposes, Congress’ authorization to use force in Iraq was all the declaration W needed.

          But then I suppose you think Ron Paul’s suggestion that we use “letters of mark” to fight terrorists rather than the armed forces was a pretty good idea too.

          • Troy La Mana

            To a degree I will agree with you but if Congress had declared war then there would have been clear goals and an exit strategy.

  • Brian H

    An absolutely GREAT post, Chris. Thanks.

    You did a wonderful job of articulating what it is I have been trying, and failing, to articulate for quite a while about running as a Libertarian.
    The idea that political parties grow from idealistic low level energy is just not supported by the history of American elections.

    Ron Paul is the perfect example as you pointed out. When he came back into the fold of the Republican Party he became a relevant player and voice. I believe that Ron Paul has helped refocus the Republican Party t its fiscally conservative/libertarian roots. Had he run as a Libertarian he would have been insignificant in election outcome as well as intellectual debate.