A Texas Libertarian Starts To Make Waves

(AP Photo)
You can feel it in the air: Ron Paul fever – it's sweeping the nation!

OK, maybe not the entire nation, seeing as Paul, a libertarian congressman from Texas trying to win the Republican presidential nomination, still isn't polling above 2 percent. But of all the minor candidates trying to break into the "Rudy McRomney" elite, Paul may be getting the most attention lately from the press corps. (Well, other than that actor guy.)

And it seems to have as much to do with his ideas – Paul, love him or hate him, articulates a coherent ideology better than many of his competitors – as the fact that he seems to inspire near pathological devotion in his followers. Look at the press coverage: The Washington Post profiled Paul's young campaign coordinator in New Hampshire; CNN.com today posted among its top stories a piece about how Paul's fans inundated the site after the recent presidential debate. He's even winning over Jon Stewart, who had Paul on the "Daily Show" and said to him, "[y]ou have accomplished no small feat, which is, you're running for President, very much as an underdog, yet you've created a nice little buzz going about the Ron Paul candidacy."

When deciding which candidates to pay attention to, members of the press corps usually focus less on what a candidate is saying than how people are responding to him or her. And Paul's ability to inspire passion in his followers – even if they are still an insignificant chunk of the population – is starting to get reporters to take notice. (They don't want to get caught off guard as they did when Howard Dean created a similar buzz back in 2004.) A little attention from the media is probably not going to propel Paul to the nomination, of course. But for a minor candidate, simply getting reporters to notice you is still quite an accomplishment.