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The Ron Paul effect: How he is altering Republican primary calculus

Ron Paul can no longer be dismissed as 'fringe' by establishment Republicans. He has the staying power to bring his message to the masses – and transform the Republican conversation.

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and his wife, Carol attend his caucus night rally Tuesday in Ankeny, Iowa.

Eric Gay/AP

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Ron Paul’s strong third-place finish in Iowa and second-place showing in New Hampshire polls have galvanized a movement that’s increasingly difficult for establishment Republicans to dismiss as “fringe.”

The former Texas congressman is exciting young voters, attracting independents to the ballot box, and bringing in the money – $13 million in the past quarter.

Whether or not he can ultimately win the nomination – which most political commentators and even some of his own supporters say is highly unlikely – Representative Paul clearly has the staying power to needle his opponents with attention-grabbing ads and bring his Constitution-centric message to the masses.

So what, ultimately, might be The Ron Paul Effect?

For one, he’s already changed the conversation to a degree – in Republican debates and beyond.

“The candidates talk more like [Paul] on taxes and government than they did in 2008,” says Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, an advocacy group in Takoma Park, Md., focused on election participation and reform. “Ultimately the nominee is going to have figure out what part of [Paul’s] message can be more of his.”

Paul has campaigned on cutting $1 trillion in federal spending – something that has perhaps upped the ante on how aggressively other candidates say they’ll cut.


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