WASHINGTON – Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul raised a surprising $5 million during the past three months, capitalizing on his stance as the only anti-war contender in the GOP field.
Paul, a Texas congressman who once ran for president as a Libertarian, also will report having $5.3 million cash on hand, campaign spokesman Jesse Benton said.
The amount places Paul well ahead of all but the Republican front-runners in the race. His fundraising for the quarter almost matches what Sen. John McCain is expected to report. His total is half the amount that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is reported to have raised.
Paul barely registers in polls of Republican voters, a sign of low name recognition nationally. Since he entered the campaign, he has operated with little media attention, getting the spotlight only during debates. But that has been enough to attract an avid Internet following.
Benton said most of Paul's money has come from online contributions. He said the donations had placed a strain on the relatively small campaign staff, which was trying to keep up with the accounting challenge.
Meanwhile, Republican Mike Huckabee was expected to report raising about $1 million for the quarter, according to a Republican familiar with his fundraising. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, had been considered the most likely candidate to emerge from the back of the Republican field because of his charismatic appeal. But his fundraising has been far less than expected. His third-quarter total would bring his overall fundraising for the year to about $2.3 million.
Paul, meanwhile, turned some heads at midyear when he reported having $2.3 million cash on hand. Since then, Benton said, the campaign has increased its staffing from 10 to 40 employees. "We're adding employees as we speak," he said.
Paul has been in Congress for 10 years, but also served four terms in the 1970s and 1980s.
He stands out from the current Republican field because of his staunch anti-war stance. At a debate in August, he was asked how he would end the war. "Just come home," he said. "We just marched in. We can just come back. We went in there illegally. We did not declare war. It's lasting way too long. We didn't declare war in Korea or Vietnam. The wars were never really ended. We lose those wars. We're losing this one. We shouldn't be there. We ought to just come home."
He's an iconoclast in his party in other ways, as well. During a debate on issues confronting minorities, he was enthusiastically applauded when he said minorities are unfairly punished in the criminal justice system. And he called for an end to the war on drugs because "it isn't working."
Paul has raised more than $8 million so far this year.
"Here's a guy nobody is paying attention to and he's raising real money," said a stunned Tony Fabrizio, a Republican strategist unaffiliated in the presidential contest. Noting that McCain has emerged as the most vigorous supporter of the current war strategy in Iraq, Fabrizio said: "The strongest pro-war candidate and the strongest anti-war candidate raised the same amount of money.