Wednesday, October 17, 2007

“Who is Ron Paul?”

The phrase is scrawled across a stark placard — stuck on a roadside bridge in the heart of liberal Maryland. The sign over the Capital Beltway commands attention from passing commuters through its sheer simplicity and homespun insistence.

And it’s one of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of handmade posters, billboards, bumper stickers and banners that have multiplied around the country, crafted by those who want Rep. Ron Paul of Texas to win the Republican nomination for president.

Mr. Paul appears today at the National Press Club to discuss the state of his campaign finances. He has raised $8.3 million this year, according to numbers released Monday by the Federal Election Commission.

But money alone is not driving the campaign. It’s zeal and spunk, perhaps.

The mother of all Ron Paul signs went up Friday outside the Desert Star Ranch Truck Stop, about 50 miles north of Barstow, Calif. Built by nine volunteers from plywood and paint, the monster message — reading “Ron Paul Revolution” — is 10 feet tall and 48 feet long.

The intrepid craftsmen claim it’s the largest campaign sign in the nation, hammered together from 19 sheets of plywood and support posts donated by the locals. The grass-roots team has since built three more billboard-sized offerings reading “Ron Paul: Truth, Freedom, Justice.”

“We’re enthusiastic, every one of us. And that enthusiasm is multiplying exponentially from person to person. It’s snowballing,” said Robert Terhune, spokesman for Nevadans for Ron Paul in Reno, where Mr. Paul recently won a straw poll conducted by the Conservative Leadership Conference.

“I used to be a nonpartisan kind of guy. Then I found out what Ron Paul stood for, and I had to be a part of it,” Mr. Terhune said. “Making our own signs saves money. And it sure gets the message out.”

The self-proclaimed “Paulites” have also flocked online, particularly to YouTube, where Ron Paul videos — not to mention anti-Ron Paul videos — are popular fare.

Sign-making parties are a mainstay among loyalists in New Hampshire, Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida. So many signs have been posted around Orlando, in fact, that local officials issue citations to Paul fans, who insist on their right to free speech — even in public areas that ban signs of any sort.

Their messages are straightforward: “Ron Paul is Cool,” “RP 2008,” “Ron Paul needs you.”

Mr. Paul’s campaign handlers are delighted.

“This is the work of independent supporters across the country. The depths of real grass-roots support and real passion continues to amaze us. We’re convinced there’s something special going on,” said Jesse Benton, communications director for Ron Paul 2008, based in Virginia.

“Our fundraising is healthy. With the help of our volunteers, we’re up for the challenge, for the nomination. We’re serious,” Mr. Benton added.

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