The Other Problem With Ron Paul Supporters

Libby Spencer at the Newshoggers has an interesting post up that I kinda wanted to touch on because we recently enjoyed the company of slightly more than a gaggle of Ron Paul supporters ourselves.

(Note:  All apologies to Matt who will most likely give me hell for writing this)

Libby, who has actually been somewhat respectful of the Ron Paul candidacy in the past, has taken umberage with the tone and rabidity of Ron Paul’s internet crusaders:

Take for instance, what happened right here on Newshoggers yesterday, at Cernig’s excellent post on Obama’s nuke speech. This comment appeared almost instantaneously.

There is a very active discussion thread now taking place at [a website] “Would you vote for Ron Paul?” and NO RP bloggers are in it. PLEASE consider going over there to answer questions and spread the word. If you’re not a member, registration is quick, easy and free. Once your in click Discussion top of front page then look for thread.


This is spam Alan. It pisses me off and it leaves me feeling uninclined to post about Ron Paul at all.

I’m one of the few bloggers that has been willing to treat Ron Paul as a credible candidate but I often hesitate to post anything about him precisely because it seems to draw spammers and that element of impolite zealots spoiling for a fight. You do your candidate no favors with this approach.

We discovered first hand exactly what Libby was talking about when Mick wrote up a very good post on home made signs in New Hampshire.  What ensued was akin to being trapped in a room with an army of deaf (though not mute) Jehova’s Witnesses.

And while it’s entertaining for a little while, the fun quickly goes out of the party when the comments reach a brain bendingly obvious repetition.  Debate any Ron Paul supporter on any topic, and you are likely to get one of two responses.  A) “So what’s wrong with following the constitution?”  or B) “Everything not Ron Paul is evil.”

But there is something else that is wrong with Ron Paul supporters and it is self feeding.  That being that internet organization is significantly stronger than just about everything else about the campaign.  This results in supporters being encouraged by unscientific data, and redoubling their efforts.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the political horse race world continues to spin, and Ron Paul’s really not even in it.

There’s no question that RP mobility is awe-inspiring on the internet.  Ron Paul supporters scour the nets for links to Ron Paul, for polls, blogs, etc.  When they catch something, it seems as though the entire crowd collapses and floods.  As a result, Ron Paul consistantly outshines opponents in online polls, and any blog brave enough to mention his name risks getting bushwhacked by hundreds, maybe thousands of supporters almost instantly.

The sheer volume of online support, therefore, provides a false sense of immensity of the Ron Paul movement, which in turn further energizes already scarily zealous supporters.  The problem is, this doesn’t reflect the actual support for Ron Paul in comparison to his rivals.

I like covering horse race, and tend to spend a decent amount of time picking through polls and trying to keep tabs of what candidates are doing on the trail.  While I have reported on internet polls in the past, I have been careful to do so with a measure of skepticism, and nearly always remind my readers that these things are not scientific, and therefore probably one of the poorest indicators of how a candidate is actually doing on anything.

Ron Paul provides an excellent reason why.

Real polls pick their audience based off of a scientifically selected sampling of likely voters.  This is done in an attempt to take a realistic snapshot of the electorate so the poll can be used to provide actionable data.  If, for instance, you are yourself a presidential candidate and you want to make yourself feel better, than you only poll those who have your signs in their yards.  But if you want to know where you are lacking supporters, or how you are doing against your opponents, then you poll the entire populace (Rudy’s apparently been known to partake in the former, don’t ask me why, he just does).

Internet polls are different, they aren’t selected, they are participated in.  So, what happens with the Paulites is they flood the things where other supporters may only engage in casual participation at best.  There’s no way to control the populace sampled, and therefore the integrity of what is reported is essentially nil.  The result when, say, Paul supporters go and flood these polls is that they render the results reported essentially worthless.

But this doesn’t stop the rush, and is in all actuality, little more than mass self delusion. 

30 Responses to “The Other Problem With Ron Paul Supporters”

  1. FZappa says:

    This is a pretty meta post, Kyle.

    Let’s get a reality check!!:

  2. dw says:

    Please dont blame us for simply wanting to debate issues? Is that what you are tired of? If so, dont worry, Ron Paul has just raised more than $5 million dollars in the third quarter. According to reports, Romney only raised $4 million and threw in $6 million of his own to make it look better. He has plenty of money to get the word out to MANY more people who just might want to get on the internet and do a little old fashioned back and forth.

    C,mon, that used to be fun?? If you are truly annoyed, go over to start a thread directed at admin or Josh and ask that the word be spread not to come to your blogs. Trust me, we will listen. We will MISS you though!

  3. Oh, no, far be it from me to not want some back and forth. I just want the forth to be something other than, “durka durka Constitution, durka durka durka ZOMG Federal Government is evil!!!!1111!!! one hundred eleven thousand one hundred eleven!!!! exclamation point!!! lulz!”

    And yes, I know about the five million. Sorry, big scheme of things, not that big. Okay, maybe for Republicans it’s a little bigger than it would be for Democrats, but it still doesn’t put him as much more than a blip on the radar.

  4. And dammit all, I’m going to get this off my chest. It has nothing to do with anything, but I’m going to say it anyway: MADISON AND JEFFERSON WERE NOT CHRISTIANS! THEY WERE DEISTS WHO BUILT A WALL BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE FOR A DAMN REASON!!!!!!!

  5. “false sense of immensity”?

    If that’s true, what are y’all afraid of?

    Maybe there are lot more of us who are really, really fed up with the way things have been going in our country than the rest of you would like to imagine.

    Q: What do all the American Presidents, Congressmen, Senators and other Federal employees have in common?

    A: They swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

    Q: How many Presidents, Congressmen, Senators and other Federal employees can you name who actually uphold and defend the Constitution?

    A: I can only name one – Ron Paul. If a piece of proposed legislation violates the Constitution, he votes against it. He has more honor and integrity than all the other Congressmen and Senators put together.

    All the other 2008 Presidential candidates are sock puppets for the oligarchy.

  6. goldwater says:

    “Real polls pick their audience based off of a scientifically selected sampling of likely voters. This is done in an attempt to take a realistic snapshot of the electorate so the poll can be used to provide actionable data.”

    Wouldnt ti be more accurate to say

    – Real polls pick their audience based off a selected sampling of voters that will likely vote for the party’s preferred choice. This is done in an attempt to shape the electorate so the poll can used to pursude other voters into voting for a “winner”.

    Of course the party is trumpeting any person who will continue the status quo of supporting corporate interests and globalization of the economy at the cost of the middle class Americans. Its time to wake up and think for yourselves.

  7. J. Cline says:

    The problem, as I noted on Libby’s blog, is that we Ron Paul supporters are being overly zealous and aggressive. Yes, often the media and party establishment have been dismissive of Paul, but this is no excuse for rudeness.

    Rudeness in defense of Paul leads, IMO, to a backlash among the uncoverted heathen (lol, sarcasm) which sets in motion a feedback loop of negativity. This does nothing but hurt the Paul campaign’s image, which is obviously not a desideratum.

    Let’s try just to represent Ron Paul’s ideas, and quote HIM, not our personal interpretations of the man or his beliefs. I don’t get insulted when bloggers look skeptically at Paul. After all, judging from some of the over-the-top hysterics posted by some fellow Paul supporters, it’s no wonder that others are unconvinced of his credibility.

    Let the $5 mil. fundraising numbers talk, and then we’ll see the MSM follow the money, paying Ron Paul more attention which in turn will allow Ron Paul himself to be heard, beyond the Net.

  8. matttbastard says:



    J. Cline almost gives me hope that there are a few sane Paul followers out there.



    At least s/he acknowledges that some of us don’t like RP because of sincere policy disagreements (in my case, eg, his stance abortion), not because we ‘love gov’t’, ‘hate the constitution’ or are in league with ‘international bankers’ and the CFR (ONE WORLD GOV’T FTW!!11)

  9. matttbastard says:

    “his stance abortion” s/b “his stance on abortion”.

  10. FZappa says:

    Uh, Kyle, you use more exclamation points at 2:51 than I’ve ever seen a Paul fan use.

    But yes, I’m certain the “scientific” polls are not in any way rigged against Ron Paul. That’s a paranoid thought — paranoid, crazy, fringe, and nutty!


  11. FZappa says:

    “durka durka Constitution…”

    Wow, that’s quite a comment, Kyle.

    Those damn Paultards, all they want to talk about is the Constitution…gets so boring!

  12. There are sane Paul supporters. Unfortunately, they’re being driven insane by the less sane Paul-ites. As I, like Cline, also posted on Libby’s blog, I appreciate the zeal and passion of some of the supporters- indeed, I like to think that my support is fairly passionate (except that my support of Ron Paul also goes back almost 10 years). The fact is that the ranting and raving whenever someone says something bad about Paul or disagrees with Paul is counterproductive; worse, it completely misunderstands Congressman Paul’s principals. I’ve even received some e-mails stating, in all seriousness, that Congressman Paul’s supporters are in “a war” to reclaim the Constitution. Things like that even make someone like me re-think their commitment to Congressman Paul- the nomination campaign is not a “war”- what is going on in Iraq is a war.
    The fact is that even a newly converted libertarian (and former Republican) like myself can find room to disagree with the Congressman on particular issues. But I support him because I believe his philosophy (ie, Constitutional libertarianism) is one that, if implemented, would allow for the greatest range of debate on the greatest range of issues. I also happen to believe that this allowance for debate is precisely the core of the Constitution (especially if you understand Federalist No. 10).
    The thing is that libertarianism is not the only philosophy that seeks this goal, and, I should point out, there are even some forms of libertarianism that do not seek this goal (eg, Objectivism). As a result, I’ve found that there are individual politicians who I can palate (and even respect) that are not libertarians in any way.
    In fact, I could list several candidates currently in the running from both parties who I could vote for (and be very happy with that vote) if Congressman Paul is not on the ballot. In order, I would list them as: Obama, McCain, Richardson, Huckabee, Biden. Mind you- I think all of them would implement some horrible policies and they couldn’t be more different from each other, but I also think that each is interested in fostering debate and listening to differences of opinion.
    Anyways, I apologize for the long comment. Lest you think I’m just being a troll, I actually think this is a pretty good blog, and I’m going to add it to my blog’s link list.

  13. matttbastard says:

    “But yes, I’m certain the “scientific” polls are not in any way rigged against Ron Paul. That’s a paranoid thought — paranoid, crazy, fringe, and nutty!”

    Yes, yes it is.

    (Speaking of gaming the system…)

    Wow, that’s quite a comment, Kyle.

    Those damn Paultards, all they want to talk about is the Constitution…gets so boring!

    Two for two. You’re on a roll, FZ!

    Methinks to preserve the honour of your current chosen namesake (a truly great man whose fingernail clippings held more sense, creativity and insight than you’ll ever hope to possess in your entire lifetime) you should do the right thing and rename yourself with a more appropriate moniker, like ‘Cap’n Obvious’, or ‘Totally rEVOLting’.

    PS: ‘May your shit come to life and kiss you on the face.’

  14. Actually, no, Publius, that was one of the more lucid comments from a Paul supporter I’ve seen, and appreciate it much.

    I’ll be dead honest with ya. If you go back to the Comments link I provided above, in the comments section you will see someone accuse us of not covering Paul like any other politician in the race, but the thing is, we do. Or at least did. When I cover horse race, I cover it as objectively as I can because in that mode, I’m not trying to push a candidate, just give some insight into what’s going on in the race. That’s one of my favorite little pet subjects in this business we call political blogging.

    Even this post and Libby’s are, in essence, the same kind of post in a way.

    But if I changed my tone towards Paul, it would be primarily because of his supporters, and that’s at the heart of what Libby was saying. My add on point was merely that the internet effort is really skewing the data on him. And yes, I fully realize that he raised five million dollars, which is, all things considered, not bad for the Republican primaries (would be woefully under achieving in the Democratic contest). But even this is still not GREAT news.

    First, Huckabee, the one low tiered candidate that actually does look poised to break into the upper tier, is known for not being a great fundraiser. He’s organizations in early states are actually pretty pathetic as well. Huckabee is, I believe, making headway because by his own words, he’s “winning one vote at a time.” He’s got a campaign philosophy that seems to slowly be making traction.

    Second, we know that Thompson outraised Paul, as will Mitt and Rudy. I think McCain ekes him out but by a sliver, the only report I’ve seen had McCain between five and six mill.

    So really, all Ron’s five mill buys him is a seat at the table. Plus, and here’s something to look at. Internet is new. New media is a relatively new frontier in politics, and early on in the race I remarked that Ron Paul has a phenominal internet organization. But again, one has to wonder if that skews the data or not. As Howard Dean proved, when you get the internet working fully to your advantage it can do some great things, but too much of the campaign trail is still buried in traditional practices, so, and this kinda runs with this post, what I think we are seeing is that while Ron Paul is way ahead of the game on the internet thing, he is way behind in virtually all the other aspects of campaigning which is likely the reason why internet polls and fundraising is astronomical, however his polling still is in the basement.

    Philosophically, well, I just don’t have that much in common with Paul, but that is a discussion for another time.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Kyle:
    Thank you for your respectful response. I just wanted to add two more things, in response to Zappa’s posts that get to the core of the problems I have with some of RP’s supporters:
    1. The polls are not “rigged.” It may be that RP’s support is a couple of points higher due to undersampling of cell phone only households; however, this would still get him only to at most 7 or 8 percent. Also, the polls only ask you who you’re voting for if you’re actually a registered Republican eligible to vote in your state’s primary. In most places, though, most people have no idea who Ron Paul is; attempting to get people to know who he is by evangelicizing will either convert them or, more likely, make them decide they will never support him under any circumstances.
    2. There is no “media blackout.” The media covers that which it believes people are interested in. If RP isn’t showing up in the scientific polls in a noticeable way, has no high profile endorsements, and lacks the support of the establishment (ie, the people who the media actually know and thus mistakenly assume represent the country at large, hence the term “Beltway Bubble”), then they won’t dedicate much coverage to him. Now, RP had a big fundraising quarter; this is something the media can understand because it is a traditional measure of success. As a result, you are seeing the media give RP a sudden slew of coverage (which will fade rapidly, of course).
    Again, sorry for the lengthy comment- it’s a bad habit of mine.

  16. K Dawson says:

    Well, sometimes aggressive outreach and campaigning is what it takes to get noticed. None of the mainstream media is reporting on Ron Paul. I think that this is frustrating for people who support Ron Paul. You have a guy who has a good message and is trying to get the word out. But, it isn’t an uphill battle… it’s a vertical epic! The mainstream media is AFRAID of Ron Paul. They are going out of their way to avoid putting him in polls or reporting about his campaign. The Ron Paul supporters are trying to attract attention to the campaign and sometimes the only way to do that is to make some noise. You can ignore some background hum. You can ignore a quiet droning sound. But, when the message reaches a loud crescendo there is absolutely no way to ignore it. The harder you try to ignore Ron Paul the louder the outcry will become.

    So, if you REALLY want to cut down on the amount of Ron Paul ‘noise’ that you are getting in your blogs and in your forums — then TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES! Write stories about all the candidates and their campaigns and be sure to include factual information about Ron Paul’s campaign. Writing him off as a kook or an annoyance only makes it worse. When you (the bloggers and journalists of the world) start to talk about Ron Paul then the noise from the fans will start to quiet down again.

    Ignore Ron Paul at your own risk. The more you ignore him the louder it gets in here.

  17. Brad says:

    Those who are easily rattled by prattle will succumb to emotional atrophy.

    Fear Drives many things in this country today.

    I have seen exactly what you detest in reverse fashion.

    Pity the inept. Educate the small. Do not break down due to instant urge.

    Without Test, Faith And Paradigm Are allowed To Be Fiction.

    Argue only issue.

    Test Thyself As Well As Thy Brother.

    The Message Is More Important Than The Man. Do not rely on second hand information or implication. Read About Ron Paul’s Views By His Own Hand; And Then Argue with Ammo If So Compelled. Do Not Dismiss Him Because Of Others.

    Understanding Is Not Mandatory.

    It Is A Great Human who can Understand another’s Views without accepting them.

    It Is a Greater Human that can Change Their Own Views when new data presents itself.

    To Let Others Rule Your Mind Is To Do Their Bidding. Think Free; Question All.

  18. FZappa says:

    Matt and Publius:

    Let’s keep this simple: we have many reports, and I linked to one, of Rasmussen polling by asking respondents which of five candidates they support — Romney, Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, Huckabee — and then adding an option of “other.” Only after pressing for “other” is the respondent made aware that there are additional choices when you get past the “other.”

    Rasmussen then reports these results without stating that this is their methodology.

    Do you not believe this to be strongly biased against the “other” choices?

  19. Zappa:
    That is one poll out of many. Additionally, it is a poll that is rarely, if ever, cited by major news outlets. Finally, Rasmussen didn’t start including Huckabee in the poll until he surprised everyone at the Iowa straw poll.
    There are a variety of reasons why one poll might ask questions one way, and another might ask them another way. Is it unfair to RP supporters? Yes, but as RP himself would probably point out, life is unfair. Does this somehow affect only RP and not Tancredo, Brownback, Hunter, etc.? Of course not. RP is listed in the polls that are most frequently (and pretty much exclusively) cited by TV and print media outlets: Gallup, ABC/Wash Post, Reuters/Zogby, and Pew.
    Fact is, RP supporters (and again, I am one) need to earn credibility before they can expect to be treated credibly. Going on to message boards to rant and rave at anyone who doesn’t go whole hog in their support of Paul doesn’t do anything to earn credibility; it does just the opposite. Raising $5 million in one quarter? That earns some credibility, as the ABC report tonight showed. Getting high profile endorsements earns credibility as well- but no high profile figure is going to stick their neck out for a campaign if its supporters are primarily known for their conspiracy theories.

  20. matttbastard says:

    At this point, the fundraising numbers alone indicate that Paul has more credibility (and clout) as a viable candidate that Huckabee or (snicker) McCain (to say nothing of Hunter or Tancredo, who are both done like refried beans). However, as PE and JCline both note, that newfound credibility is continually undermined by cult-like group think, which only serves to reinforce the leeriness those who are familiar with RP’s ties to the far right/militia/conspiracy groups (eg, Alex Jones and the Prison Planet/InfoWars tinfoil crew).

    But I ain’t gonna concern troll. Please, keep the faith; remain utterly rEVOLting. Going on about ‘international bankers’ (y’all gotta realize what that’s dogwhistle code for), “Test Thyself As Well As Thy Brother”, and the CFR doesn’t do your cause any good, which is just fine by me. With numbers like what was just released, my biggest concern is another Nader-like third party run that ends up splitting the progressive/antiwar vote off from the Dems, allowing the GOP to slide Giuliani (or *shudder* Thompson) into the White House.

    (And yes, this does fall under the lesser evil principle, but trust me: Senator Clinton is the lesser evil, when compared to the GOP ‘double Guantanamo/civil liberties/smivil liberties squad.)

    So keep doing your goddamndest to undermine your deity preferred candidate with zealous insanity, because if this growing momentum carries past the primaries (and beyond limited online borders) it may very well prompt RP to consider running as an independent.

  21. Matt Bastard:
    I wouldn’t worry about Paul as a third-party competitor to Hillary (who scares me as much as Giuliani in terms of her willingness to further expand Executive Power). At least half of RP’s support (the less vocal half, I might add) comes from disillusioned Republicans who remember that the GOP used to be about small government. In a general election, I would expect that to be more on the order of 75%. RP will not appeal to many Dems over the age of 25- I can’t imagine many Dems supporting his anarcho-capitalism when Hillary will talk a good enough game about civil liberties and bringing the troops home.

    Historically, almost all small “l” libertarians voted Republican (if they voted at all), and even thought of themselves as primarily Republicans- only the most hard-core ever actually voted for the Libertarian Party. However, the Republican Party no longer stands for anything recognizable to even those libertarians who refused to consider themselves as libertarians.

    But the Democratic Party’s recent disavowal of Bill Clinton’s small government politics makes them every bit as bad as the Republicans for most of us. This means that Ron Paul represents sort of a last ditch effort for (small-l) libertarians to reclaim a seat at the table in our two-party system. If he doesn’t win the nomination, then I would expect most libertarians/disillusioned Republicans to either stay home on election day, or vote for a third party even if RP isn’t on the ballot.

  22. Mark Joplin says:

    Studies show that most Americans now spend more time on the Internet than watching TV. Internet users represent a very broad section of the American public. Therefore, if a candidate has a large Internet following, they have a large following in the US. If a candidate has a large TV following, this is not necessarily the case, however.

  23. Chris says:

    I know of a few other ‘blips on the radar’ that were misread by the same folks who are misreading Ron Paul. They made it all the way.

  24. John says:

    Since the mainstream media isn’t doing Ron Paul any favors, I get most of my Ron Paul news from various online articles, and I have yet to see a Ron Paul supporter act rude in reply to any online article.

  25. lester says:

    all the ron paul bashing in the world won’t change the fact that this is a very mediocre blog that features information amply covered a thousand other places, including the “MSM”

  26. lester says:

    “But if I changed my tone towards Paul, it would be primarily because of his supporters,”

    this really hurts because you are such an important person in american society. without your endorsement I mean, jeez. we better just call it a day

  27. matttbastard says:

    As always, your rapier wit wounds, Lester.

    Like being stabbed with a wooden spoon.

  28. lester says:

    I’m sorry man. that was rude “my bad” as they say

  29. Carole says:

    I don’t know why I’m even wasting my time with this one – Kyle, but I just had to write and ask “Have considered buying some brain cells lately”?

    A study of history will provide them for free!

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