Ron Paul is back in Iowa today, taking a victory lap around the state before voters head to the caucuses tomorrow night.
While his campaign has suffered some serious setbacks over the past few weeks,reports about Paul’s 1990s newsletters and about his penchant for conspiracy theories haven’t dampened enthusiasm here in the Hawkeye State. Paul, campaigning with his son, Sen. Rand Paul, have been greeted like rock stars, with hundreds of supporters turning out to rally in both Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
In truth, Paul has already won. The latest Iowa poll shows the Texas Congressmanneck-and-neck with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, basically guaranteeing that Paul will take one of the top three spots in the first-in-nation state.
But while Santorum will likely have a hard time carrying momentum past Iowa, the energy of Paul’s rallies today suggest that the Paul Revolution isn’t going away. The broad range of people who make up Paul’s ragtag army — and the depth of their feeling for the Movement — suggest that this is a force that the political Establishment will have to contend with sooner or later.
In Des Moines, for example, supporters included a Texas cowboy, a Peruvian-born National Guardsman, and a troop of Iowa homeschoolers, all of whom have taken it upon themselves to promote Paul’s White House bid with virtually no coaxing or coordination from the national campaign.
While a lot of Paul’s fans were reluctant to talk to the media — more than a few expressed concern about getting put on FBI ‘lists’ — I talked to several supporters to find out just what it is that makes them so wild for Ron Paul.
Bill Blank (Des Moines), Russell Harder (Ames), Gabe Lanz (Boone)
Blank, Harder, and Lanz typify the Movement that Paul has galvanized with new and independent voters who think that the federal government is too big and that the U.S. should stay out of conflicts overseas. All three have been organizing for Paul in Iowa, both independently and with help from the national campaign.
“Basically, we want the government to leave us alone,” said Blank, a stand-up comedian. “It all boils down to personal liberties and personal responsibility.”
Lanz, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, agreed, adding that he agrees with Paul’s plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan and with his economic policies.
“End the Fed, that’s No. One, that’s the root of all of our problems,” Lanz said. “He’s the only one for our country that, for all of us, is going to even scratch the surface at giving us a chance to have a future where we’re not living in a depression for the next 10, 15 years. We’re looming on the edge of another big bust right now and he’s the only one that’s trying to address the problems.”
Harder, a union pipe-fitter chimed in: “He’s for freedom and liberty — he’s the one who can turn things around.”
Rick Nova (Chicago)
A “freelance writer, artist, and photographer,” Nova traveled from Chicago to Des Moines on Monday to sell buttons and generally show support for Ron Paul.
Although he is not affiliated with the campaign, Nova said that he plans to be in Iowa for the caucuses Tuesday night and would like to “be there when they count the votes.”
“I’m afraid that the votes might be rigged,” he said. “I’m concerned that the outcome might not actually be what the votes reflect….I believe that there is a desire for the votes to be counted in the presence of the people, and for the use of paper ballots.”
Jon Wood (Adel, Iowa)
While Paul’s isolationist foreign policy has been a major weakness with some Republican caucus-goers, Wood, like many other Paul supporters, finds it to be one of his strongest selling points.
In Des Moines today, the crowd went wild when Paul brought up pulling out of Afghanistan and when he slammed Obama for signing the Defense Authorization Act, which grants the power to indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of terrorism.
“It sounds to me like the drumbeat of war is on,” Wood said. “I went from economic concerns to war concerns, and I more inclined to support Ron Paul as our chief diplomat.”