If you ask Ron Paul, the reason he rejected Secret Service protection has nothing to do with his safety or waning popularity: He says it's just like being on welfare and doesn't want any of it. "It’s a form of welfare," Paul told Jay Leno Tuesday (video via Politico below). “You know, you’re having the taxpayers pay to take care of somebody and I’m an ordinary citizen and I would think I should pay for my own protection and it costs, I think, more than $50,000 a day to protect those individuals. It’s a lot of money." He does have a point: Secret Service isn't cheap. According to this Washington Post report from November, during this nomination process "the Secret Service, had requested $113.4 million to provide security for the eventual Republican nominee -- a $4 million increase from the 2008 campaign and about two-thirds more than was spent for security during the 2004 election."

For Paul, denying Secret Service protection is a smart way to draw attention to his message of fiscal responsibility while also implicitly making a point about Mitt "Javelin" Romney and Rick "Petrus" Santorum and their Secret Service protection. But in this race, Secret Service protection has served as an indicator of popularity, as we saw with the former, fleeting frontrunner Herman Cain and now Romney and Santorum. And with his sagging numbers, connecting his more popular opponents to that dreaded w-word and painting them as freeloaders might be one of Paul's best options.