Is Ron Paul the favorite candidate of US military personnel?

Ron Paul says it’s time to bring US troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. He also says he's raised more money from current members of the armed forces than any other GOP hopeful.

Chris Carlson/AP
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R) ofTexas, speaks during a Republican presidential debate Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Ron Paul says it’s time to bring US troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. He thinks the US national security establishment is puffing up the threat from Iran’s nuclear program – possibly to involve the nation in another overseas conflict.

He’s opposed to the use of American armed forces in nation-building activities, and in general he thinks it’s time Uncle Sam stopped serving as the world’s policeman.

These positions put him at odds with the more hawkish members of the GOP presidential field. But here’s something interesting: according to the Paul campaign, he’s raised more money from current members of the armed forces than any other Republican hopeful.

“If you add up all the donations to all the other Republican candidates from military, active-duty people, I get twice as much because they’re sick and tired of these wars and they know they’re not working out,” said Mr. Paul earlier this month during an appearance in Washington at the National Press Club.

Wow. Is this claim really true? Now that the Federal Election Commission has released 3rd quarter fundraising reports, we can check on it. Let’s go to the videotape, as the late great D.C. sportscaster George Michael used to say.

First off, we’ll note that Paul is punching above his poll numbers, fundraising wise. According to the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls, Paul right now is the choice of 8.1 percent of GOP voters, putting him in fifth place in the race for the nomination.

But in what pundits like to call the “money primary,” Paul is third. He’s raised $12.6 million this election cycle, to Mitt Romney’s $32 million and Rick Perry’s $17 million.

And according to an analysis by the campaign finance watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, the organization whose members have contributed the most to Paul’s coffers is listed as the US Air Force. Members of the Army are second, and the Navy is third.

Mitt Romney’s top three, measured as the group whose members donated the most to his effort, are Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley. As you might imagine, this is a contrast that the Paul campaign is more than happy to publicize.

“This fundraising analysis confirms Americans’ beliefs about Ron Paul and their suspicions about Mitt Romney ... Romney relies almost exclusively on his big-business ties,” said Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton in a statement.

Well, we’ve got a couple of comments about this analysis. The first is that the methodology of the analysis is necessarily limited. Individual contributors to a presidential campaign are supposed to note their occupation, but they don’t always. Sometimes, they do include information, but it’s incomplete – an address say, or an acronym that laypeople can’t identify.

Forty percent of Paul’s contributions weren’t coded, and thus weren’t included in the Center for Responsive Politics survey. Thirty percent of Romney’s contributions similarly weren’t counted. It’s possible that a full accounting here would tell a different story. It’s also possible that it wouldn’t.

Second, there’s no way around it: Romney got a boatload of cash from Wall Street. Members of his top five donating organizations – all financial firms – have pumped over a million bucks into his campaign so far.

While he may have received the most from donors who chose to identify themselves as serving in the military, Paul didn’t actually get that much from them, relatively speaking. If you add up his haul from the Air Force, Army, and Navy, it is something like $60,000, according to the CRP analysis. Compare that to his $12 million overall total.

So the real story may be that libertarian Paul gets money from people who work at so many different places that it doesn’t take much for the total from workers at one place to collectively place high in his money rankings. Got that?

We think this measure may be more indicative: 48 percent of Paul’s donations came in small increments from individuals, according to FEC date. Only ten percent of Romney’s money came in a similar way.

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