So this fellow, a musician, set up his own Web site - the Internet is a huge part of the Ron Paul story - and the whole thing just took off.
The story behind the local rally, set for 1 p.m. at Independence Mall, is similar.
In August, the Paul campaign ran a national fund-raising competition among its local support groups. These groups, which form online, are called "meetups." First prize was a visit from the candidate.
When the Philadelphia meetup won, campaign officials figured that if they had to come, they might as well make the most of it.
The result is a Veterans Day weekend gathering near where the Constitution was written, perfect for a former Air Force flight surgeon who says that all of his political principles stem directly from the nation's founding document.
No one seems to know exactly what to make of a Republican candidate who doesn't show up in the national polls, raises a lot of money, and wants to bring the troops home from Iraq immediately.
No one except for Paul's core of dedicated supporters, many of whom are young and/or disaffected.
'He doesn't flip-flop'
"A lot of us were raised to think that all politicians are liars," said Brian Kelly, 19, a freshman at Drexel University who is Paul's top student organizer in the area. "Here's someone who's had the same positions for 30 years. You can trust him to stick to his beliefs."
Said Fred Immendorfer, 51, of Haddon Township: "His appeal ranges from borderline anarchists to World War II veterans who love this country. He doesn't flip-flop."
Born in Pittsburgh and educated at Gettysburg College, Paul is a 10-term congressman (and physician) who represents a district south of Houston.
He ran as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988, and his views are often described as libertarian. But he has always been a Republican, advocating limited government and a non-interventionist foreign policy.
Citing the Constitution as his guide, Paul opposes the income tax, abortion, gun control, the Patriot Act, and ceding U.S. sovereignty to international organizations.
He would like to return the dollar to the gold standard while killing off the Federal Reserve Bank and IRS, plus the Departments of Energy, Education and Homeland Security.
But it is his call to bring the troops home that is attracting supporters and donors. "He's the only man who truly wants us out of the empire business," said Jay Parker, 51, a Fishtown carpenter.
"Iraq is the draw," Paul says. ". . . And Giuliani is due a lot of thanks for helping me along by attacking me and ridiculing me in the debates. I think I'm closer to the truth than he is."
Even before the recent influx of money, the Paul campaign had raised enough ($5 million from July through September) to pay for television and radio commercials in the early-voting states.
It also has exploited the new media, with aides and supporters using YouTube to disseminate videos and meetup.com to get people together. Another Web site with a strong Paul presence is pledgebank.org, a place where individuals promise to do something - say, give $1,000 to Ron Paul - if 100 others will do the same.
Still to be determined is whether the campaign can take the next step.
"We've seen the Internet build campaigns for candidates with tech-savvy supporter populations that want to feel like insurgents out on the fringe," said Julie Germany of George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet. "We haven't yet seen that translate into a get-out-the-vote effort."
Debbie Hooper, the assistant campaign manager, said in a recent Webcast: "The truth is there will be no revolution without precinct captains and delegates."
In New Hampshire, perhaps Paul's best state, one poll has him in fourth place at 7 percent. But analysts suspect he has a low ceiling even there, in a state with the slogan of "Live Free or Die."
"Among mainstream primary voters, I can't imagine that Ron Paul's anybody's second choice," said Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. "With him, it's all or nothing."
Despite his belief that the country is way off track, Paul comes across as surprisingly placid. He calls himself a "reluctant candidate" who has been "waiting for the time when the people were ready" to listen. His campaign banners include the word REVOLUTION
- but with letters two through five boxed and reversed as LOVE.
"My supporters would like me to get more upset, but I'm purposely trying not to," Paul said yesterday. "You don't gain much by being angry. I see this more as an intellectual, philosophical fight than a political, personality fight."
Henry Teune, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, sees no chance for Paul to win the nomination but appreciates what he has to offer.
"There's a real hunger for a fresh approach without demonizing people," Teune said. "We've got a lot of demonizing going around."
Rep. Ron Paul
Age: 72; born Aug. 20, 1935, in Pittsburgh.
Political career: Republican; has served two stints in Congress, from 1979-85 in Texas' 22d District and 1997-present in the
14th District. Ran as
a Libertarian candidate
for president in 1988.
Professional career: Practicing physician from 1968-96, specializing in obstetrics/gynecology.
Military career: Air Force flight surgeon,1963-68.
Education: B.A., Gettysburg College, 1957; M.D., Duke University, 1961.
Family: Wife, Carol;
five children and
GOP to Punish Early-Vote States
The Republican Party said yesterday that it would punish five states for scheduling nominating contests before Feb. 5.
New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan, Wyoming and South Carolina will lose half of their delegates to the national convention, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said.
Iowa and Nevada, with caucuses in January,
will not be penalized because votes are
not binding on convention delegates.
State party leaders were optimistic that their entire delegations would be seated, hoping the eventual nominee
would restore them.
Democrats have vowed
to strip all delegates from Florida for moving up its primary.
- Associated Press
Contact senior writer Larry Eichel at 215-854-2415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.