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Online community flocks to Ron Paul

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani may lead the polls and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney might have the most money among GOP presidential candidates, but Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) clearly leads his Republican colleagues in online support, and his second-quarter fundraising figures will reflect this, the campaign said Friday.

Paul leads all Republicans in YouTube channel views with nearly 2.1 million, according to the popular video website. The next closest Republican is Romney, who has fewer than 700,000 channel views. Only Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has more among all presidential candidates, with close to 5.2 million.

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But Paul’s communications director, Jesse Benton, pointed out that the Texan’s channel has been up and running only three months, while Obama has had a YouTube channel since September of last year.

Among YouTube channel subscribers, Paul is blowing away all competition, with 19,328 as of Friday morning, more than twice as many as Obama.

The Texas lawmaker also leads the GOP field in Facebook supporters and MySpace friends.

Benton credited Paul’s message with the online success, saying it is “really connecting with voters.”

Although Paul is widely viewed as an also-ran, the online support is translating in a bump in the polls, according to the campaign. In addition, several factors also contribute to Paul’s under-performance in traditional polls, Benton said.

For example, the Texas lawmaker has a lot of young followers, many of whom do not use landlines anymore and are not captured in telephone polls.

When the campaign releases its second-quarter fundraising figures, likely on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday, Paul’s increasing popularity will become more evident, Benton said.

Contributions from April to June will be “significantly higher” than the $640,000 that Paul had raised in the first quarter, Benton added.