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Ron Paul's Moment in the Sun: Is it Finally Cool to be a Libertarian?

December 19, 2011, 5:29 PM

What's the Big Idea?

As Newt Gingrich appears to have peaked, and now plunged in the polls, the latest candidate to enter the GOP Presidential speed-dating game is Ron Paul. 

Paul has pulled ahead of the pack in a number of recent polls in Iowa, and many are wondering whether he will follow the same up and down path that all the other non-Romney candidates have so far taken in this election cycle. And yet, Paul isn't exactly coming out of nowhere. He's been polling better than candidates such as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum for some time now. Many have argued that Paul has simply been ignored by the media. (Some commentators have even joked that if Paul does go on to win in Iowa the headlines may read "Romney beats Gingrich for 2nd Place in Iowa.")

In this post we are going to look past the polls and examine another phenomenon that perhaps best explains what Paul possesses that other candidates do not: enthusiasm. Indeed, while many other candidates have only been able to muster luke warm levels of enthusiasm, Paul has managed to drum an enormous amount of excitement up among his supporters, who tend to be young people. 

Let's consider, for instance, the Twitter primary:

Mitt Romney has over 200,000 followers, but overall tweets about the former Massachusetts governor tend to be highly negative. While Newt Gingrich has over 1.3 million followers, many of them are robots. In contrast to these candidates, according to a recent survey by The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that analysed 20 million Tweets over 7 months, 55 percent of the tweets about Ron Paul were positive, while only 15 percent were negative. 

What's the Significance?

The excitement around Ron Paul and his libertarian positions is not new. In fact, in an interview with Big Think, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel suggested that the libertarian strain of conservatism may well become a defining feature of the GOP for years to come, based on the enthusiasm she saw for Paul in the last election cycle.

Watch the video here:

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Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan




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