The Difference Between Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee

After grabbing more than $6 million in a single day, Ron Paul has run his fourth quarter fund-raising total to nearly $20 million, making him the cash king on the Republican side. Just as impressively, the money bonanza has come from small-dollar donors – the average “Tea Party” contribution was, according to the Paul campaign web site, about 100 bucks – a clear sign of deep grassroots support.

But he is still not going to win the Republican nomination, or even come all that close.

Dr. Paul has vastly exceeded the expectations of the opinion-shaping class, which had no idea what to make of him or his ideas a year ago, and didn’t really care either. But he always had more potential than most of the other obscure Republicans (like, say, Duncan Hunter) simply because he occupies unique ideological turf. Virtually everyone who shares his views, it seems, has cut him a check. They’ve never before seen someone on the national stage spouting their beliefs.

But while the sky seems to be the limit for Dr. Paul’s fundraising, there is a fairly clear ceiling for his political support. Look at it this way: Both Dr. Paul and Mike Huckabee began the campaign in roughly the same spot – unknown, unfunded, and utterly written off. By making noise in the debates, they both attracted attention and a base of support. The difference is that Mr. Huckabee’s electoral support has metastasized; he now leads in Iowa and several other states, and runs in second place in some national polls. Dr. Paul remains in single-digits everywhere. (About 8 percent in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina).

Once Mr. Huckabee won free media exposure, it translated into broad support. But Dr. Paul’s free media exposure – and that which he’s been able to buy with his formidable treasury – hasn’t brought him anything like that.

Dr. Paul’s supporters can rightly thumb their noses at the Beltway folks who lumped their candidate in with Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo a year ago.

His fund-raising accomplishments are truly astounding. But in terms of this election, that’s as far as it’s going to go.