Catching Up With Ron Paul

Ron Paul’s fifth-place showing in the New Hampshire primary disappointed his supporters, who saw the Granite State as his last best chance to penetrate the first tier of GOP candidates.

But Paul doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The $20 million he raised in the fourth quarter should carry him at least through the Feb. 5 states. And the grassroots money fountain shows no signs of drying up. “If I said I needed 50 million dollars, they’d probably do it,” he told me after a speech in Nashua earlier this week.

I asked whether there’s been any tension between the official campaign and what supporters call the “real” campaign of online supporters. “There will always be,” he said, but on the other hand it’s better, since “they don’t have to wait for marching orders.” Paul talks about the campaign as if it’s not really up to him whetheror not he stays in the race—and that’s a good thing. “We don’t have anychoice but to keep it going,” he said.

Paul also laid to rest (again) any notions of an independent candidacy. “Short of an absolute no, I’ve said the same thing: I have no plans, no intention to run.” Getting on the ballot would be hard enough, he said, let alone negotiating some states’ “sore loser” laws , which prevent candidates who have run in the primary from running again in the general.

But his attitude doesn’t sound like the usual maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won’t coyness. He actually seems open to all possibilities—he just can’t think of any circumstance that would make him want to run as a third party candidate: “I can’t conceive of anything that would change my mind.”

If he got out of the race, I asked, would he throw his weight (and fundraising acumen) behind another candidate? No, he said, because his supporters are non-transferrable: “People have asked me, ‘What’s your technique? Where do you get your lists?’ … They don’t understand this is spontaneous. If I endorsed someone I’d lose all credibility and we wouldn’t get any money anyway.”