Congressman Ron Paul has said his personal computer is his favorite gadget, and if his campaign is any indication, he wasn't kidding. More than any other candidate, the 72-year-old Republican with the staunch libertarian ideals has used blogs, social networking sites and online videos to disseminate his message to an unconventional—and fiercely loyal—audience. His candidacy demonstrates both the power and the limitations of Internet politics. In online text voting after debates, Paul routinely "wins," and in the last three months of 2007 his online fund-raising brought in a startling $19.5 million. But for all his Web appeal, he has yet to win more than 19 percent of the vote in any primary or caucus. In an e-mail interview with NEWSWEEK's Katie Paul (no relation), Ron Paul talked about how to capitalize on the e-support that surprised even his own team.
NEWSWEEK: Since you've been a big fan of innovative campaign technology, are you hoping for any particular techie endorsements—Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the like?
Ron Paul: I would welcome their endorsements. Internet innovators understand that the Internet flourished because of freedom, so it would be natural for them to embrace my message of freedom and keeping the Internet free from taxes and overregulation.
You said recently that you're honing a strategy to target smaller states and spend your money more wisely. Can you elaborate on that? How are you planning to spend your money? What would you like to change about your campaign?
Our campaign has had many successes and also some serious challenges. So far our top finishes have been in caucus states, where we finished second in Nevada and in Louisiana. And in Louisiana we may have even come in first. [The Paul campaign is contesting the state's credentialing of delegates.] Because of that success we've decided that in these caucuses are the best places for us to win delegates. Our campaign's organization, combined with the strength of the enthusiasm and dedication of our supporters, make caucus states a place where we will be focusing much of our efforts.
You've brought in a new media director, Mark Elam. What kinds of new media tools are in the works?
Mark is an old friend of mine. I've worked with Mark Elam for over 30 years, and we worked together on the Ronald Reagan campaign in 1976. He has a lot of expertise, and I think we have already seen improvements in our TV ads.
What would influence your decision to either stay in the race for the long haul or to drop out? Could Super Tuesday results push you into a decision?
I'll drop out if my supporters lose confidence in our campaign or if our volunteers stop showing up. Until then, I owe it to them to keep going and spreading my message.