Of course, Paul is a disaster as a candidate, and his ties with various unsavory types less careful about expressing their bigotry than he has been would sink him in a general election. But he does come across onstage as anti-establishment — while not carrying the “baggage” of faith that many conservative / classical liberal / libertarian types seem so much to distrust in their prospective candidates (at least, if the candidates gives the impression that s/he believes the tenets of that faith and might actually hew to them) — and this appeals to many of those who are fed-up with a business-as-usual government they can’t seem to change, even after sending an unmistakable message via the ballot box that it is significant change they desire and demand.
Hence, Ron Paul. The ultimate protest vote from those who reject big government and Wall Street crony capitalism; from those who want significant spending cuts and the elimination of vast swathes of governmental “oversight”; and for those who are put off by the caricature of social conservatism that both the GOP moderates and Democrats have spent years creating and institutionalizing.
Sometimes a single issue dominates an election enough to turn down the volume on things that would normally be disqualifying in a candidate. I think Ron Paul’s supporters hope that his ne plus ultra Tea Partyishness will cause voters to overlook that unsavoriness. “He has leftish suppoters! Occupiers!” they think.
They’re wrong. The Occupy crowd is nowhere near as significant in the voting bloc as they would like to be, and I doubt very much if they’re really going to ever actually vote for Paul. Right now the media is playing a classic rope-a-dope; ignoring Paul’s past during the primaries only to unload it during the general.
Not that it matters. No one whose foreign policy matches up with George McGovern is going to get the nomination anyway. The GOP makes room for everyone except doves.