Blimp Me Up

Some presidential candidates make stickers. Those are fun. Some make posters. I guess those work, too. But some—or rather, one—have giant freaking blimps flying around with their names on them.

If you haven’t seen the Ron Paul blimp passing overhead lately, that’s because the launch was delayed. The blimp was supposed to take off today, but the banners that get stuck to the side of the blimp haven’t arrived yet, according to blimp coordinator Bryce Henderson. “[A] blimp with no message on it simply does not have the same effect,” Henderson wrote in an e-mail.

The blimp tour is organized by an ad-hoc group calling itself, well, Ron Paul Blimp , and it’s financed by contributions on its Web site. The more money donated, the longer the blimp stays aloft. They’re up to about $234,000 as of Wednesday, which should keep the blimp airborne through Dec. 24, according to Henderson. But there’s no definite end date—if people keep giving, the blimp keeps going. Henderson says the blimp will probably fly over Iowa during the Jan. 3 caucuses, and there’s a tentative schedule to keep it floating through the Feb. 5 primaries, cash willing.

The blimp project is a lot like Ron Paul’s October “money bomb” in that it’s organized entirely by supporters . But as a fund-raising gimmick, it’s fairly useless. Campaign finance laws prevent Ron Paul Blimp from coordinating with the campaign, so the money they collect can’t go toward ground organization. Instead, donors are paying for pure, unalloyed publicity: The value a thousand heads turning upward and saying, “Holy crap, it’s a Ron Paul blimp.” And unlike the October “money bomb,” there’s something in it for donors. Anyone who gives $5,000 to the blimp gets to ride in it. (About a dozen people have so far.)

The genius of the stunt—other than the potential for exposure—is its utter silliness. “A blimp?” you say. “Who does that?” But it works because no one takes Ron Paul all that seriously in the first place. Somehow a Hillary Blimp or a John Edwards Blimp wouldn’t quite work. But a Ron Paul Blimp—now that just makes sense.