Ron Paul is back in Iowa today, taking a victory lap around the state before voters head to the caucuses tomorrow night.
Photo: Business Insider
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 Congressman neck-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.
Blank, Harder, and Lanz typify the Movement that Paul has galvanised 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 organising 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.'
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.'
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 defence 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'm more inclined to support Ron Paul as our chief diplomat.'
The young couple turned out for Paul's Des Moines rally with their five young daughters in tow. Even Lucy, their 11-month-year old, was decked out in Ron Paul Revolution gear. Matt, an electrical engineer, is active in the Iowa Republican party and in the libertarian group Campaign for Liberty, and serves as a district co-chair for the Paul campaign.
As homeschoolers, the Devries feel like Ron Paul is 'one of our best champions,' Matt explained. 'He talks a lot about limited government and individual liberties and those are issues that we are really familiar with.'
The Devries support for Paul is particularly notable, given the strength of the Christian homeschooling movement in Iowa Republican politics. These voters tend to support more traditional evangelical candidates, so the fact that there have been at least some defections to the Paul camp this time around indicates that the Texas Congressman really has broadened his support beyond his 2008 base.
Tice, a young mother with a super-pretty smile, also brought her kids along to the rally today, and was happy to chat about why she supports Ron Paul.
'I just feel like I can trust him,' she told Business Insider. 'He has a 30-year track record that shows he is a man of what he says.'
Because of his consistency, Tice said she believes she can trust that Paul will remain pro-life, an important issue for her in this election.
'Plus the government just spends way too much,' she added. 'He's the only one with the guts to actually cut back and tell people, 'Sorry, your program has to go.''
A true Paul-maniac, Cysch drove down to Iowa from Wisconsin this week to rally support for Paul. A self-employed food farmer, Cysch says he appreciates that Paul is 'into raw milk and raw cider, and the ability of the individual to decide for themselves what they put in the body.'
'It's between the person and the business they are buying from,' Cysch said. 'The government should be totally out of that -- they should be there as an advisory, and not to make personal regulations.'
Cysch said he hopes to potentially attend a caucus tomorrow as an 'observer' to make sure that the 'votes are counted correctly,' something that he did for the Paul campaign in 2008. Cysch says he thinks the campaign is probably looking to 'do something like that this time around,' but said he is not as involved with the formal campaign this time.
Another Wisconsinite, Moriarty traveled down to Des Moines Monday to help the Paul campaign organise for the caucuses.
Moriarty said that since the September 11 attacks and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, he has been actively looking for a third-party candidate to support. But while Ron Paul is running on the Republican ticket, Moriarty said he believes Paul will not sacrifice what he believes for the Establishment.
'I am concerned about, first and foremost, freedom, unnecessary preemptive war, and spending over freedom,' he said. 'Ron Paul has the most genuine message. And that's what I'm going to stand by.'
This foursome, three of whom are die-hard members of Canadians for Ron Paul, drove 16-miles from Toronto to hear Paul speak in Iowa on Tuesday.
'We've been following around Paul for like five years, so we felt it was something we had to do,' said Moreau, a 23-year-old student. 'He's so different from any politician in the States or in Canada -- he's so humble, he's so honest, he's so thoughtful.'
'It's what we're missing in Canada,' Jared Teelegdi chimed in. 'There are no libertarians.'
Like many Americans, the four Canadians seemed confused by the caucus process, adding that they were just hoping to get a little closer to Ron Paul and 'shake his hand, maybe get some autographs.' Cottingham even brought along a book for Paul to sign.
Jay, the eldest of the group, said that he had just come along as 'the driver,' but that he was starting to come around to Paul's message.
Ron Paul's student volunteers also packed the crowd, but they apparently aren't allowed to talk to the media.
According to this group of volunteers, the Paul campaign has its official volunteers sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from talking to the press. One young man did volunteer that he is a student at Texas A&M University, but his fellow Paul campaigners nudged him to stop talking.
CNN reports that the Paul campaign has signed up 1,480 volunteers to be precinct leaders at the caucuses tomorrow -- an impressive number that shows just how powerful Paul's organisation is in Iowa.
(There are 1,774 precincts in Iowa but only 900 caucus locations, so it looks like Paul will have at least one leader at every voting site.)
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.