Congressman Ron Paul's presidential campaign has been defined by exceeded expectations. During debates, the Texas Republican has separated himself from the GOP pack with unrelenting criticism of the Iraq War. On the Internet, his supporters have flooded discussion forums with such ferocity that several websites have barred their participation. And in the world of political fundraising no one, not even Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama have had single day successes that approach Paul's cash hauls.
The latest of these occurred yesterday, when the Paul campaign took in a record $6 million in a 24-hour period. The total, which came a month and a half after supporters - independent of the candidate - brought in $4.2 million dollars on a single day, eclipsed the record $5.7 million that Sen. John Kerry raised after he received the 2004 Democratic nomination.
The money is indeed impressive and has made Paul the envy of some in the GOP field.
"We have friendly relationships with a couple of the other campaigns," Jesse Benton, Paul's spokesperson told the Huffington Post. "I joke with the [Mike] Huckabee campaign. We wish we had their poll numbers and they wish they had our cash."
But, as Benton acknowledges, with surveys showing Paul well behind in Iowa and trailing in New Hampshire, the question remains, what can the campaign do with their stuffed coffers to generate growth in the polls.
Apparently, a lot. Already preparations are being made to build infrastructure in the February 5th primary states, signifying that Paul plans to stay in the race no matter how the early elections go.
"Our immediate focus is Iowa and New Hampshire," said Benton. "But what is great about having this money now is that it allows us to step back, hire staff and get some paid media for the February 5th primary. We still need to do well in New Hampshire and Iowa to prove that we can continue to grow and maintain momentum."
Paul's team will also be promoting what it calls the "Christmas Vacation" program, which involves paying the room and board expenses of college students who want to help out in the first two states during the winter break.
But it's not just college kids who are coming on board. Within the next few days, the Paul campaign says they will hit 200 employees nationally with roughly half of them based in Iowa.
"We are hiring people so fast it's hard to keep track," said Benton
In addition, Paul will be devoting more money to advertisements, with a fifth campaign commercial set to be released soon in both New Hampshire and Iowa. And yet, for someone who has profited so bountifully of the web, little in terms of Internet innovations is being planned.
"We will go as far as the web wants us to go," said Benton. "We don't do anything magical on the web. It's just that the message is so powerful that it goes viral and spreads."
Real change for the Paul campaign, however, may not be something that the candidate or his staffers can possibly affect. As Benton notes, the perception of Paul as a fringe candidate (even after all the cash hauls) remains ingrained in the media psyche.
"We still have a ways to go," he said. "To get into the earned media cycle you have to earn it. More and more people are talking about Ron and mentioning him as a candidate. The talk about him being nice and having loyal fans but no chance of winning is finally fading out... These fundraising events have given us a megaphone to say there is a lot of support for us out there."
And indeed, other Republican candidates are starting to take notice. Even if Paul doesn't win the nomination, his fundraising efforts have made him a remarkable political weapon. As an aide to a rival campaign said, when asked what he would like to see the Texan do with all his money: "I'd like to see him spend it on Huffington Post web ads."