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Ron Paul raises more than $1 million around GOP presidential debate

The big winner Thursday night might have been U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Clute) — but not because of anything he said or didn’t say during Fox News’ GOP presidential debate in South Carolina. Paul’s committee made hay while the TV camera lights shone, raising more than $1 million in a “Debate Day Moneybomb,” according to his website.

Paul raised $3 million in the first three months of 2011, assisted by a moneybomb on Washington’s Birthday that brought in more than $700,000, The Texas Independent previously reported.

As Slate’s David Weigel (a former reporter for our sister publication The Washington Independent) writes:

Paul, who starts the race with the biggest grassroots fundraising network, good poll numbers, and no pundit thinking he can win, veered between protecting his vulnerabilities and screwing with the moderators. He said Israel “didn’t need us telling it what to do,” meant to be a calming line for conservatives who fear his isolationism. He was also so bemused by a question about drug legalization that he ended his answer with a wacky impression of a heroin user. And why shouldn’t he be bemused? As he debated, a one-day moneybomb for his campaign was raising more than $1 million.

Paul had a couple of other reasons to be in a good mood, namely a CNN poll that identified him as the GOP’s best matchup against Pres. Barack Obama (trailing 45 percent to 52 percent), compared to Mike Huckabee being down 8 points to Obama and Romney down 11 points — as well as a Suffolk University poll showing the libertarian congressman from Texas in a three-way tie for second among GOP hopefuls, with Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Paul all receiving 8 percent in a survey of New Hampshire GOP primary voters.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney dominated the other 17 names in the survey, being favored by 35 percent of respondents to the Suffolk poll.

Giuliani, Romney and Trump did not participate in the Fox News debate last night; and neither did Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and other potential top GOP contenders.

The absence of those big names compelled Daily Beast columnist Matt Latimer to dub Fox News the biggest loser of the night. “The many, many voters who missed this clash of ‘Governor Tim Pawlenty and the also-rans’ can continue their lives without a care,” writes Latimer, a former speechwriter for Pres. George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty was the biggest target among the field of candidates at the debate, which also included Paul, pizza magnate Herman Cain, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

“If I’d been there to watch the governor walk onto the stage, I would have screamed at him, Admiral Ackbar-style: “‘It’s a trap!’” Latimer writes.

The Daily Beast‘s columnist Howard Kurtz writes, “Bottom line: Pawlenty took most of the flak but made no major mistake. And even if he had, who’s going to remember this debate a week from now?”

Meanwhile, our sister publication The Colorado Independent reports that Cain was the big winner of the debate, at least according to conservative RedState blogger Erick Erickson.

And the Wall Street Journal reports that Fox News terminated its contracts with Gingrich and Santorum after they started talking publicly about vying for the White House.

Read more about the debate in the Los Angeles Times.

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