'Betrayal' motivates man to back Ron Paul
Nov. 30, 2007
Then he became an overnight sensation. Literally, overnight.
On Nov. 5, Lyman helped raise $4.2 million online for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, laying claim to the most money collected by a campaign over the Internet in a single day.
Lyman is ready to do it again, with a more modest goal of $2.5 million by midnight Friday. He started soliciting pledges only nine days ago, and this time, the national media is paying attention; he's juggling interviews this week from The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor.
''Dr. Paul,'' a former obstetrician, current congressman from Texas, and the lone Republican presidential candidate to vote against the war in Iraq, is typically a footnote in campaign coverage.
''Nobody took him seriously until we brought money to the campaign. It's a sad state of affairs,'' Lyman said in a telephone interview from New Hampshire, where he's rounding up support for his candidate before the first-in-the-nation primary (Iowa holds a caucus before New Hampshire votes.). ``This [fundraising drive] was pretty spur of the moment, so we'll see how it goes.''
If it fails, Paul runs the risk of being dismissed as a one-hit wonder, especially since his online popularity has barely surfaced in the polls. On the eve of Wednesday's debate in St. Petersburg, his support in Florida was smaller than the CNN poll's margin of error.
GOP donor Mark Guzzetta, who helped organize a $2,300-per-person reception in Coral Gables on Thursday for the more-established candidate Mitt Romney, said the Internet can't and won't replace traditional fundraisers.
'MAXIMIZED' THE WEB
''People want to meet the candidate -- shake his or her hand, test his mettle, watch his speech,'' Guzzetta said. ``Having said that, I do think all of us can learn a thing or two from someone who has maximized the Internet.''
It all started when Lyman was noodling online in October and came across speeches by Paul, an anti-tax, pro-gun, non-interventionalist who touts home schooling and above all, the Constitution.
''It was a betrayal,'' Lyman said of the promises by Democrats in Congress to bring the troops home. ``So in the midst of a betrayal, when you find someone who's been consistent, you know that's your guy.''
Lyman launched a website called ThisNovember5th.com, paying homage to a revolutionary who tried to blow up the English Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder on that day in 1605. More than $4 million later, Lyman had overthrown the conventional wisdom about Paul.
Lyman planned to drop a second ''money bomb'' on Dec. 15 and 16, Bill of Rights Day and the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, tapping into the Libertarian spirit that infuses Paul's politics.
MONEY FOR ADS
But the campaign realized it needed a quicker infusion of cash to pay for commercials before the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3 and New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8.
The Nov. 30 fundraising drive centers on a spat between Paul and national front-runner Rudy Giuliani during a May presidential debate.
Giuliani attacked Paul for suggesting that U.S. military action in the Middle East provoked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Paul referred Giuliani to findings in the 9/11 Commission Report, giving rise to the new website: rudysreadinglist.com.
Lyman is also raising money for a Ron Paul blimp, another surefire publicity stunt.
Paul followers are not just trolling the Internet; they pop up with their signs and fliers at South Florida events where you least expect them -- on the beach, at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bayfront Park, at the Tamiami Park Adopt-a-Tree Festival.
''We attend just about every function out there that is political -- or not political -- to meet the people and introduce them to Ron Paul,'' said Dean Santoro, of Miami, who started the ninth of what is now more than 1,300 ''meet-up'' groups for Paul supporters around the country.
Santoro was so moved by Paul that he embarked on a long-shot bid for Congress against Republican U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart of Miami. He said he's not surprised by Lyman's fundraising success on behalf of Paul.
''Honestly, no, considering the passion I feel myself for this candidate,'' Santoro said. ``I see something different. I see fire in people's eyes.''
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