From the Wall Street Journal: How many Freestaters?
- Here's a mystery quiz for everyone interested in the Free State Project.
Below is a column from today's Wall Street Journal op-ed page. See if you
can identify the total number of Free State Project participants who are
quoted or mentioned in the piece about the Ron Paul campaign. ---Tim
Ron Beats Rudy?
December 29, 2007; Page A10
For several hours on Sunday, more than a dozen Ron Paul volunteers stood in
snow drifts in the rain outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester
waving at last-minute Christmas shoppers and handing out hundreds of yards
The campaign doesn't know how many people participated because, as with so
many Paul rallies, this one was organized entirely by fans not officially
associated with the campaign.
[image: [Ron Paul]]
"We told them to take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and next thing we
know they're doing a sign wave at the mall," said Jim Forsythe, a
self-employed engineer and former Air Force pilot from Strafford, N.H., who
independently organizes volunteer efforts for Ron Paul.
That spontaneous grassroots support is why Mr. Paul, an obstetrician from
Lake Jackson, Texas, could pull off a stunner on Jan. 8 and place third in
New Hampshire's Republican primary. If he does, he would embarrass Rudy
Giuliani and steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are
battling for first place.
Many Republican operatives in New Hampshire, even those affiliated with
other campaigns, think Mr. Paul is headed for an impressive, double-digit
performance. That he has been polling in the high single digits for months
is discounted, because the polls may be missing the depth of his support.
Why? For starters, he appears to be drawing new voters. Polls that screen
for "likely" voters might screen out many Paul supporters who haven't voted
often, or at all, before. Many of Mr. Paul's supporters appear to be
first-time voters. They will be able to cast their ballots because New
Hampshire allows them to register and vote on the day of an election.
Even Mr. Paul's New Hampshire spokesman, Kate Rick, is an unlikely political
activist. She grew up in a political family in Washington, D.C. and says "I
swore I would never work in politics." She only changed her mind after
finding Mr. Paul, a candidate she says she can finally believe in. "Most
people I know in the grass roots are like that," she said. "My closest
friends have never voted before, and they're die-hard Paul people now."
There is another reason to discount the polls on Mr. Paul. The one thing
that unites his supporters is a desire to be left alone, not only by
government, but by irritating marketers and meddling pollsters, too. Mr.
Paul's supporters might well be screening their calls and
not-so-inadvertently screening out pollsters. Still, some observers of the
primary race here downplay this support, noting that a lot of the activists
who show up in news stories are not state residents and won't be voting.
It is true that Paul supporters from New York, New Jersey and even
California are prominent at campaign rallies. But volunteers and campaign
staffers say that, although out-of-state volunteers often are the most
flamboyant and can attend day-time rallies while local supporters are at
work, they do not outnumber the locals.
"Ninety percent [of his supporters] are from New Hampshire," says Jared
Chicoine, Mr. Paul's New Hampshire coordinator. Keith Murphy, a former
Democratic campaign worker from Maryland who owns Murphy's Taproom in
Manchester, has held several Paul rallies at his restaurant, which has
become a regular hangout for the Paul crowd. When the candidate shows up,
about 75% of the activists at an event are from out of state, he said, but
on other nights it's about 50-50.
Regardless of where they are from, organizing Mr. Paul's supporters is a
challenge. "This is entirely grassroots oriented to the point that the
official campaign structure seems almost lost, to the point that they don't
know what to do with all these people," Mr. Murphy said.
On their own initiative, and at their own expense, Paul volunteers hold
rallies, print and distribute brochures and even purchase ads. "I pick up
the paper and say, wow, there's an ad and it's not my ad," Mr. Chicoine told
The buzz surrounding the Paul campaign is reminiscent of the grassroots
campaign Democrat Carol Shea-Porter waged against Republican Rep. Jeb
Bradley last year. Polls showed Mrs. Shea-Porter trailing by 19 points in
October. With almost no money and no support from the Democratic
establishment, she came from behind and beat the congressman 51% to 49%.
Many are wondering if the polls are similarly missing Mr. Paul's momentum.
Mrs. Shea-Porter and Mr. Paul have very different ideas about how to use the
power of government, but both strongly oppose the war in Iraq. And Mrs.
Shea-Porter ran last year as a fiscal conservative, so it's possible Mr.
Paul could win over many Republicans who voted for her last year.
Mr. Chicoine and other Paul supporters say that, contrary to conventional
wisdom, most of Mr. Paul's backers are Republicans, not independents. But
everyone agrees that Mr. Paul draws an unusual mix of libertarians, fiscally
conservative Democrats, conservative Republicans, home-schoolers, vegans,
gambling aficionados, anti-abortion activists and others who want the
government to butt out of some aspect of their lives.
But will they get out to vote on primary day?
"I've never seen a group of people that are this energetic about a
candidate," Mr. Murphy said. "It's something else."
That sentiment is shared by Republicans who have observed numerous New
Hampshire primaries. The level of enthusiasm for Mr. Paul is remarkable,
they say. It transcends the state's Libertarian base (about 4% of the
electorate). And by many accounts, Mr. Paul's backers here are more
energized and committed than are supporters of Mr. Giuliani, who may enjoy
inflated poll numbers because of his celebrity status.
National attention is focused on the horse races between Hillary Clinton and
Barack Obama, and between Messrs. McCain and Romney. But the shy
obstetrician from Texas could be the surprise story of the New Hampshire
*Mr. Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.*
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