I have read with some amusement much of the analysis concerning Ron Paul supporters. The interesting part is that much of this takes place without actually speaking to Ron Paul followers. It's not that hard to find them, and they are more than happy to speak to you and tell you anything you want to know. My results are somewhat anecdotal, but I have spoke to a number of supporters, and here is what I have found. I'll lay it out by showing the conventional wisdom, and then what I found:
1. Ron Paul supporters are the normal third party ragtag that show up every now and then then go away. No, most of the supporters that I spoke to are Republicans with strong Republican voting records. A majority voted for President Bush in the last Presidential election. Extrapolated outward, an independent run by Paul would be a disaster for Republican chances for winning the White House. Ron Paul Supporters are no more fringe elements than Huckabee supporters as far as their party creds go. Republicans would do well to respect them as they would any other candidate's supporters, especially on the local and state levels.
2. Ron Paul is making his name as an anti war candidate. I didn't get that from the supporters that I spoke to. The overriding sense that I got was that monetary issues trumped everything with them. Indeed, the fact that the US dollar is worth less than the Canadian dollar was more likely to raise their hackles. Objection to the war was much in part to the treasure wasted and the needless entanglement of American interest rather than some "BUSH LIED!!!" screed. It's my belief that Liberals who view Paul as a reflection of their own disdain of the war aren't fully informed.
3. Ron Paul supporters will make good targets for Democratic flipping. If you think that Ron Paul people dislike George Bush, ask them what they believe about Hillary Clinton. Outside of ending the War in Iraq, there is very little that would attract Paul followers to current Democratic policy. And the War issue is not as important as you have been led to believe.
4. Ron Paul Supporters are all young students. Some of the more visible supporters are students, but they are balanced out by supporters of all ages. Indeed, you do not raise 4 million in one day on the back of students. Again, many of the supporters are lifelong Republicans with firm Republican voting records.
5. The "Paul Surge" will be viewed as a 2007 phenomenon. This is simply not true. There is little as far as charisma goes to account for Paul's following. It's his message that is making headway, and that is not going away. Granted, we are a ways off from Goldwater-like reframing, but there is a growing section of the Republican party that is entirely dissatisfied with spending and expansion of government. There is also the looming sense that the opportunity to do anything about it is going to close. As the issues of the War and Immigration are dealt with one way or another, this issue will move closer to the forefront, and the groundwork built by Paul and his followers will be expanded. This will probably be evident in local and state elections first where, for the most part, the War and Federal enforcement of immigration aren't on the table.
I invite any feedback or criticism.