Smart techie-republicans and journo-bloggers are trying to get their arms around Ron Paul's one-day, record-breaking fundraising total of $4.2 million. They're deconstructing the tools, the date he chose (Nov 5 - Guy Fawkes Day), the appearances he made, and so on.
Ron Paul raised a boatload of cash simply because he identified a self-selecting community, he took the time to understand its needs and wants, and he participated in their discussion in a respectful and relevant way. He remained consistent in his message regardless of the venue - online, at debates, campaign events, or interviews with the media. He took the discussion he was having online and made sure he made the same points offline.
Politically-active cyber-libertarians (or whatever you want to call them) have been on the 'net and in the blogosphere for years now. They're not the largest community online, but they're amazingly well integrated, they have recognizable online opinion leaders, and they have a clearly defined set of priorities and ideals. Ron Paul has let them know he's one of them, and the community has responded with its enthusiastic support.
Will this translate into votes in "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire? Nobody knows. But the financial support he's gotten exclusively in the online channel has now given him a chance to state his case in the mainstream media. If he gets 13 percent of the vote instead of 3, he's taking votes from a frontrunner candidate. So those candidates at the top now have to decide if they'll shift their messages or positions to accomodate this newly-inspired audience. If they do, Paul may see his support drop but his issues rise. If they don't, Paul becomes a legitimate player with delegates in hand and an active, vocal community in his corner.
Either way, this online community - of which Ron Paul is unmistakably a part - wins.