Ron Paul: Iconoclast or enigma?

As of this morning, Rep. Ron Paul is polling second in New Hampshire among Republican presidential hopefuls, and fourth nationally in the race for the GOP nomination.

Rep. Ron Paul

Additionally, Paul’s campaign is built to last because of its excellent organization and the dedication of his on-the-ground volunteers — an infrastructure pundits frequently describe as being superior to every campaign except Pres. Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s.

Reporting Monday from New Hampshire, Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog offered this description: “Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul have built the best field operations in New Hampshire and other early-voting states, many Republicans say. … Mr. Paul’s office, although not as well staffed (as Romney’s), operates with military-like discipline. Visitors’ names and phone numbers are promptly entered into a database. Doors are kept closed, and a ‘liberty bell’ rings every time a caller converts a supporter from another campaign. It rang five times in our 20 minutes there.”

Bobby Caina Calcan of the Boston Globe also published a description of the same Ron Paul campaign office Monday: “Back at Paul’s campaign headquarters in Concord, volunteers scurried around with masking tape on their backs or sleeves, scribbled with their duties and expertise. Most arrive as strangers to one another. Some volunteers had the letter ‘V’ taped to their shirts, identifying them as veterans of the military.”

Given all the above reasons to give Ron Paul significant coverage, why don’t we write more about the libertarian-learning 76-year-old?

The short answer: I don’t know.

For a more thorough reflection, though, I’ll direct the discussion to an excellent article Politico published yesterday beneath the headline, “Ron Paul on the 2012 campaign trail: 1,000 points of darkness.”

A snip: “There’s no gauzy, uplifting imagery in the Texas congressman’s stump speech, no city on a hill. It’s a grim, thousand-points-of-darkness jeremiad that makes the rest of the GOP field’s somber depiction of Obama-era America seem sunny. But in a moment when voters’ own optimism has faded, Paul’s message is clearly resonating. … The dark tone adopted by Paul represents a dramatic departure from the traditional presidential campaign speech — it’s dusk in his America, not morning. … The rest of the field worries about an America threatened by the creeping hand of socialism. Paul warns about a tightening fist of fascism.”

My takeaway from the Politico piece: Ron Paul just doesn’t fit the traditional paradigm the media uses to cover political races. He is so different from all the other candidates that we in the media just don’t know what to make of him.

Let’s end this post on a sunny note. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend taking a look at the Ron Paul profile the Washington Post ran on Dec. 14 — if for no other reason than to soak in the bevy of unfiltered scenes that reveal unexpected aspects of Paul’s personality.

“Ron Paul rides in the back of a campaign van that’s rolling toward the New Hampshire seacoast for a town hall meeting. He’s fastidious in a dark-blue suit. He’s not the standard presidential candidate — he lacks the factory-built appearance of Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. He’s thin, bony, a bantam rooster. He’s 76 — the only one in the race who was born during the Great Depression. He doesn’t wear his seat belt. ‘I never have,’ he says, and doesn’t explain whether it’s a matter of back-seat comfort or a deep, philosophical aversion to nanny-state meddling in our lives.”

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