There are two ways Paul could affect the race if his fundraising success is matched by a stronger than expected showing at the ballot box. First, any top-tier candidate who finishes behind Paul in New Hampshire or Iowa will face increased pressure to depart from the race, even if Paul didn’t actually take votes from them.
Second, a respectable showing by Paul will create a narrative that a critical mass of Republicans have turned against the war, even if much of his support doesn’t come from traditional Republicans. Dave Weigel makes a different but related point about GOP war politics in a Hit and Run post about the Paul haul.
Paul has attracted a following among people who haven’t had a candidate to root for in a long time, and in some cases ever in their lives. I think his candidacy is to a certain extent about providing these voters and his Old Right conservatism a home in the GOP. Will he succeed? Well, first we’ll have to see if Paul can turn his following out to vote.