Paul leads in donations from military voters, with Obama next
BENNETT ROTH, RICHARD S. DUNHAM and
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, the congressman from the Houston area who opposes the Iraq war, has gotten more contributions than any other White House contender from donors identified as affiliated with the military.
According to a Houston Chronicle analysis of campaign records from January through September, Paul received $63,440 in donations from current military employees and several retired military personnel.
Democrat Barack Obama, another war critic, was second in military giving. The Illinois senator got $53,968 during the nine months.
He was followed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, a decorated Navy pilot and former Vietnam prisoner of war, who received $48,208 in military-related giving. McCain has been one of the most vigorous defenders of President Bush's decision this year to increase U.S. troops in Iraq.
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The military contributions — nearly 1,000 of them are listed in Federal Election Commission records for this year — represent a small fraction of the overall contributions to the candidates.
Paul, whose campaign Web site notes his military service as a flight surgeon in the Air Force in the 1960s as well as his opposition to the current war, raised a total of $5 million from July through September alone. Also, many contributors do not disclose their occupations, making it difficult to determine the total extent of military contributions to any one candidate.
Nevertheless, analysts said the ability of Paul and Obama to rake in as much money from military employees as they did suggests there is a certain degree of dissatisfaction with the Iraq campaign among veterans and those in uniform.
One of the contributors to Paul's campaign was Lindell Anderson, 72, a retired Army chaplain from Fort Worth, who donated $100 to the Texas lawmaker.
"As a Christian, I think he speaks to a theme that the United States shouldn't be the policeman of the world," said Anderson.
Anderson said he strongly disagrees with Republicans who call Paul anti-military: "He spent five years in the military. People in the military have to respect his integrity" whether or not they agree with him on the war.
But an official with the American Legion, the veterans' service organization that has supported the Iraq war, said she didn't know why military employees support Paul.
"I don't know the rhyme or reason behind it," said Ramona Joyce. "It's America. Anybody can throw their money at who they want to."
At the Texas headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Austin, state adjutant Roy Grona said military personnel do not vote as a bloc.
"There's probably a lot of veterans that aren't happy with the war in Iraq," he said.
Grona said Paul has been endorsed by the VFW in his congressional races in part because of his support for veterans' benefits.
The average size of Paul's contributions from military sources is $500, with donations ranging from $50 to the maximum $2,300.
More than a third of Paul's military-related contributions came from Army affiliates; a third came from the Air Force; and a fourth from Navy donors. The rest came from affiliates of the Marines and other branches.
Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the non-partisan Cook Political Report, speculated that Paul might be an attractive candidate for military personnel who oppose the war, "but don't want to cross the line and vote for a Democrat."
Paul has made withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a criticism of aggressive U.S. foreign policy central themes of his maverick campaign.
Kent Snyder, Paul's campaign chairman, said the contributions were evidence that many in the military agreed with the candidate's position.
"I guess they want to get out of Iraq, too," said Snyder.
Texas A&M political science professor George C. Edwards III attributed support for Obama among the military to the factors that he attracts support from many black voters, and blacks are a bigger proportion of the military than their overall share of the national population.
Edwards, who was a guest professor at West Point for three years, said "an awful lot of people in the military just think this war has been a disaster for the Army."
He said they believe the war has "stretched it thin, used its supplies and has been bad for morale."
"They may be quite upset and this is a way they can do something about it," he said.
Obama's support came from across the military, including a squad leader in the Army, a member of the Navy stationed at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and state Rep. Juan Garcia, a Democrat from Corpus Christi.
Garcia, a retired Navy pilot, serves as an instructor at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi with the Naval Reserves.
"The men and women of the military are looking for a leader like Barack Obama who will turn the page on foreign policy and national security issues," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.
Edwards attributed McCain's backing to his being "a former military guy." McCain received the largest number of supporters from Navy, in which he served.
"John McCain has extremely strong support among veterans, especially in the early primary states," spokesman Brian Rogers said. "He's a veteran himself and he's been there for them on the issues for over 20 years."
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