I hesitated in writing this but it is something that must be said. First, for those who may be dropping by for the first time, let me give you a little history as to who I am and why I think I have some credibility in stating that one of Ron Paul's biggest liabilities going into a 2012 presidential run (which all signs point towards him doing) are his supporters.
I began following Congressman Paul in February of 2007 after randomly watching a floor speech on CSPAN (I almost never watch CSPAN but turned it on for some odd reason that day - fortuitous I guess). I liked what I heard and then would read and watch anything I could find online about him during the exploratory phase of his campaign.
I found out that my assistant pastor was Ron Paul's brother which tied me to the family in a way and I was charged with keeping him up to date with all things Ron Paul during the campaign (he only had dial-up.) I have met Ron Paul personally at least 4 times with one time for a couple hours at a family reunion here in Michigan.
I worked tirelessly on the campaign in 2007/08 where I was one of the original meet-up members, my wife and I maxed out to his campaign, and all of the people who worked with me were very aware of my preference for president. I got involved in the local GOP and have been so ever since. I have served on the county executive committee and I ran for the state house (partly because Ron Paul casually asked me at the reunion when I was going to run for office some day.) I can say that Ron Paul and his family (I've never met Rand) are a wonderful, godly, industrious, and caring folks.
Needless to say, I consider myself to be a legitimate voice among Ron Paul supporters when I offer this observation of CPAC last week. I still support him and any other voices who call for liberty whether that is Gary Johnson, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, etc. The more voices the better in my opinion because the more salesmen the more likely you will find a sales pitch that works for different people.
So Ron Paul's achilles heel in beginning this presidential run are his supporters. Well, not all of them, a small but extremely vocal and raucous minority. Most of the Ron Paul supporters at CPAC were subdued (except when Paul spoke) if not well dressed (lots were students and I remember those days). But there was a fairly prominent segment of his supporters who were really annoying. They booed people, heckled speakers and supporters, and basically acted like jerks. Frankly, they were embarrassing to be anywhere near.
Listen, I get it. The mainstream media treated Ron Paul terribly (still is, of course) and most establishment Republicans scorned his viewpoints. The fact that he was right about a lot like the financial collapse just made establishment Republicans more mad. But acting like jackasses and ruining events is only going to antagonize and turn people off to Ron Paul.
We no longer have to act crazy to get attention. He raised money, has an extensive organization through C4L and even statewide in Iowa, and he gets lots of love in the media [Don't believe me? How many times has Duncan Hunter, Tommy Thompson, Rudy Guiliani, Fred Thompson, Tom Tancredo been interviewed since the election? My guess combined Paul still outnumbers them 5:1.]
The behavior of some of those Paul fans on CPAC simply made people mad. What's the point of booing Dick Cheney? Why heckle Rumsfeld? Sure you have a right to do that, but you reflect poorly on the guy you're trying to convince the mainstream that is legitimate. It merely accomplishes the opposite of the point of any conference like CPAC - to gain support.
You can be enthusiastic and chant "Ron Paul' and cheer and talk about how great his stances are. But don't do so by attacking someone or scaring them. It's foolish, ineffective, and ultimately detrimental.
Unless those Ron Paul fans learn some self restraint and how to interact with establishment and casual Republicans, his campaign will quickly hit a ceiling. He will never climb out of the 'fringe' category with most Republican voters which is absolutely essential if we ever hope for him to gain the nomination.
Like Laura stated a few days ago in her piece about how things will go, I too can imagine Paul followers acting in one of few ways during a second campaign. I only hope it is with decorum and attracting the bees with honey - not vinegar. Let's debate ideas and not antics.