To Ron Paul supporters, Rep. Paul is a man of ideals. And his record is exemplary, at least in terms of sticking to those ideals — Paul has repeatedly been on the losing side of elections, pushed legislation with no support, and generally put his money where his mouth is. The guy just doesn’t fuck around with politicking, and that’s pretty respectable (and rare) in Congress.
The question is, can he win? His supporters are louder than those of any other Republican candidate. This is the perfect climate for his ideals. The polls seem to show that he is, for the first time, on relatively equal footing with the mainstream Republican candidates. That said, the GOP will be hard-pressed to nominate a political outsider, given their preference for coiffed-do social conservatives with penchants for populism. The fact that he is opposed to monied special interests, while admirable, doesn’t really help his electioneering either. Unless Ron Paul enjoys a groundswell of support from a conservative base as-yet-untapped, such as rural voters, I don’t see the GOP nominating Ron Paul.
Then again, we have 20 months until the election. In September of 2007, Rudy Giuliani was the clear winner of the polls, with 34% of the vote (Fred Thompson was in second with 22%, but only because he announced his candidacy that same week). Ron Paul seems fringe now, but a year is an eternity in politics. By next September he could be facing President Obama, or a political pariah.