It is now 10 hours until the polls close. Your guest blogger is out and about, blogging from some snow-covered roadsides. I have been in the US for a few weeks now, and am therefore out of touch with British coverage of the primaries. So I don’t know if British audiences will be aware which of the many presidential campaigns is the most interesting. Obama has the hype. Romney has the money. The Clinton machine is never to be underestimated. But the most interesting, innovative campaign in the entire election—to this point—is none of these. That prize goes to libertarian-leaning Texan Republican Ron Paul. His supporters, although not as numerous, more than out-shout and out-enthuse any other campaign, including Obama’s. Paul has also raised a stack of money, even outraising Hillary for a time. He may well finish third in New Hampshire, which for a candidate with a radically libertarian message and some fairly strange ideas besides, would be an amazing achievement. Even if he doesn’t, his campaign has been an extraordinary oddity.
A friend with whom I was having lunch yesterday in Concord, the New Hampshire state capital, mused that the trick Paul has pulled is managing to gather the support of people who liked Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader into one furious, mildly lunatic campaign. His support ranges from anti-imperialists on the left through to government-loathing “starve the beast”-ers on the right, taking in a motley collection of vegans, home-schoolers, gun cranks and others along the way. Drive down Elm Street—the main drag in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest town—after 5pm any day, and you will find literally hundreds of fevered Paul supporters yelling on street corners. And just ten minutes ago, driving through the snowy roads of southwest New Hampshire, I saw another Paul innovation. Instead of using expensive yard signs, his campaign has started spray-painting “RON PAUL 08” on to the snow on the side of the road. The irony—that many of these roads were built, funded and maintained by the same government Paul’s supporters want shut down—is, almost certainly, lost.