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Watching the rise of Ron Paul online

28 June, 2007
By Allison Orr

The Internet is buzzing with the talk of Ron Paul’s campaign, and how this otherwise little-known candidate is raising his profile by using the tools of Web 2.0.  This is not the first time Ron Paul has run for president, but this campaign is significantly different to the last, when he garnered just 0.5% of the vote.  Today, his popularity online is causing a sensation, and use of the Internet by supporters and his campaign staff have started to see results.

Ron Paul supporters have been making use of networking sites like Eventful and Meetup to organize political gatherings, rallies and other events to raise the profile of the little-known congressman.    His YouTube channel has had about a million visitors, his MySpace page now has about 15,000 friends and, according to Khou.com, he is the second-most popular search on the Internet, just behind "YouTube". 

The Congressman’s use of the Internet looks to be now spilling over into traditional media, with Paul appearing on the top-rating "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "Real Time with Bill Maher" to talk about the buzz  his Internet campaign is generating as well as his policies.  He also came in first place in both Fox News and MSNBC surveys of viewers after a Republican debate.

This campaign is being closely watched by online commentators to see if this candidate can turn what appears to be a huge online following into "real" support.  The last time a candidate created a buzz over an Internet-based campaign was Howard Dean, and that did not translate into a real political victory.

Also stirring up talk around politicians use of YouTube is the somewhat odd video of Democrat candidate Mike Gravel  staring into the camera for three minutes then throwing a rock into a lake.  It’s hard to tell whether this is a clever ploy to get people to notice your video simply because it’s so unusual and offbeat, whether it’s a statement against a political system that can be summed up in quick catchy soundbites, or whether it really is just strange!  The comments on YouTube reflect this divergence of opinion, with statements ranging from "clearly the man is insane", to "a huge breath of fresh air" to "best political ad ever".


 

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