It’s no secret that those employed by the armed forces have been leaning in favor of someone considered something of a political outlier: Ron Paul.
Now, a review by Human Events of the latest campaign donation reports shows that financial support from that sector has intensified to such a degree that Paul has left the other candidates, as well as President Barack Obama, in the dust. And veterans who support frontrunner Mitt Romney say they will woo Paul’s supporters when their candidate becomes the clear nominee.
Paul may be a last-place finisher in primary votes and delegates – he has 51 delegates compared to Romney’s 658 – but his donation lead is widening among members of the military.
As of Sept. 30, 2011, Paul had received $95,567 from members of the military, edging out President Barack Obama’s $72,616, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By Feb. 29, that lead had more than doubled to $315,109 compared to Obama’s $148,308.
The closest runner-up to Paul in the Republican race is Romney, who reported $13,300 in military-related donations as of Sept. 30, and $36,108 from those employed by the military as of Feb. 29.
In contrast, Paul received more than $220,000 from military donors from October to February even as he trailed three other GOP contenders in the nomination race.
To date, military donations to the top three Republican frontrunners total barely one-third of what Paul has raised from the same demographic. Paul said a few days ago he is not sure if he will endorse a candidate as the race for the Republican nomination draws to a close.
Paul’s military appeal is probably best explained by the fact that he alone in the field of candidates has active-duty military experience. Paul served two years as a flight surgeon in the Air Force, then three in the Air National Guard. And his backers are the first to brag about his coup in military giving. A pro-Paul website, RonPaulRonPaul.com, hawks posters that illustrate the disparity in donations. “He served,” it reads. “They didn’t.”
At a January rally for Paul in Washington, D.C., which drew more than 1,500 people, 400 of whom were active-duty troops, attendees told the Washington Times they also appreciated Paul’s strict-constitution approach to governance and opposition to invading sovereign nations–the same position that has drawn criticism from the right and the left for promoting an outdated policy of isolationism.
Email messages to the coalition that organized the rally, Veterans for Ron Paul 2012, were not immediately returned.
Paul’s popularity in this particular demographic has not been lost on vets who support Romney. Scott Rutter, co-chair of Vets for Romney and a former Army officer who served in Iraq, told Human Events that he and other members of Vets for Romney hope to attract military votes that might have gone to Paul or another candidate by staying on message and presenting Romney as a strong leader and good listener.
Rutter said that Romney has proven his mettle as a leader in the business world and has been quick to take counsel.
“First off, he’s surrounded himself by veterans,” Rutter said, naming former secretaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi and Jim Nicholson, who joined the Romney team as part of his Veterans’ Policy Advisory Group in October. “Like any leader or businessman, you look at your gaps and you look at things you want to compliment your portfolio with and you bring them on and you listen to them.”
Rutter said the issues concerning veterans came down to three things: “jobs, jobs, jobs,” an innovative and responsive VA, and a strong national defense. He said he and the 800 or more veterans active within Vets for Romney chapters across the country believed that the candidate was listening to them on those issues, acknowledging their concerns and pledging to take on the challenges they presented.
“We’re explaining the facts,” Rutter said. “From the veterans’ perspective, we’re keeping in our lane and making sure the veterans understand those items. What the governor has done is he’s reached out at the grassroots level. That’s important to us as veterans.”
No matter who or even if Paul endorses, his followers who are veterans are not likely to be overlooked by those in the military who currently support the leading candidate.