Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ron Paul Supporters Growing By Leaps and Bounds

NEWTON, Iowa – It has been said Ron Paul supporters would walk through broken glass, barefoot to help the Texas congressman win Iowa and beyond but Jeremy Spice and Sarah Howe went a few steps further.

They got tattooed.

In huge letters across his left forearm reads "REVOLUTION," a logo often used by Paul's supporters ; Howe's smaller, matching tattoo is on the back of her neck.

The two had driven to Iowa from Fort Wayne, Ind., at the last minute to attend a rally for veterans Tuesday evening Paul was hosting.

"We both have this week off after Christmas — it was last minute but we were like, we're going to go," Spice said. "So we left yesterday around noon, got in last night around midnight."

Paul's growing popularity in Iowa is no surprise to those who love him best. In some cases, these supporters have spent years vocally supporting him through straw polls, social media and contributing to his massive money bombs that raise millions within hours.

His support reaches beyond the droves of college students who have come to Iowa to volunteer and who are the most closely associated with Paul's campaign.

Among the Paul fans gathered at a recent event at theIowa Speedway were a 28-year-old factory worker, a 60-year-old military veteran and a 48-year-old registered Democrat.

With a nose piercing, a Ron Paul stocking hat, a shirt declaring his support of Paul in the 2011 Ames Straw poll and a leather jacket with a "Led Zeppelin" patch on the sleeve, David Richardson, a 28-year-old factory worker from Newton, looked the part of a stereotypical Ron Paul supporter.

Like many Paul fans, the Texan's brand of constitutional conservatism first caught his interest. From then on, the more he read, the more he liked.

"His opposition to the Federal Reserve really caught my attention; it was something I hadn't thought a lot about before," Richardson said.

Deanna Seiler, a Democrat from Elberon, Iowa, said Paul's adherence to the powers outlined in the Constitution attracted her as well as his opposition to trying to turn backward foreign countries into modern societies, which Paul calls nation building.

"What is the purpose of us being everywhere and not here?" she said.

Bob Colby, a 22-year veteran of the military, was the first person to raise his hand following Paul's speech.

"I just have a comment," he said when called upon. "I'm retired military and of all the candidates that are running right now, you are the only one that I would trust to be my commander in chief."

Paul has called for troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan as well as from other countries, such as Japan, where the United States still maintains military bases.

Not window shopping

Unlike Iowans who have visited rallies for other candidates and say they're still undecided, those who attend Paul events aren't window shopping. They come to see the man they're committed to support in the Jan. 3 caucuses.

"Our supporters have always been very loyal," Paul said. "My attitude to build momentum is to reach as many people as I can, and that means going to these meetings and rallies and the rallies are getting bigger and so I keep doing the same thing."

Paul supporters are not only vocal but are protective of the man they often refer to as "Dr. Paul." If they think a media organization has either ignored Paul, made a mistake about his record and smeared him, they bombard the offender with e-mails, phone calls and online comments.

In some cases, the slights only energize them, according to supporters who initially e-mailed USA TODAY to express their disapproval of a story about a series of newsletters Paul distributed that contained racist and anti-Semitic language.

"We as supporters get even more adamant in our support when the mainstream media marginalized and ignored Ron Paul," Paul Niehaus IV of St. Louis wrote in an e-mail. "That just fuels our intensity."

Paul supporters pride themselves on their research abilities and their comprehensive knowledge of Paul's policies. Instead of relying on websites or listservs, they scour the Web for stories about Paul and make their views about those reports known.

"The reason you hear so much more from Dr. Paul supporters should be clear - we actually have educated ourselves on all the candidates in the field," wrote Jeff Smith of Houston. "When we pick our guy then we feel strong convictions about it. So, if we see someone representing him in an unfair light then we call them out on it."

Such reactions from Paul supporters has made public figures think twice about criticizing him publicly, said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who has endorsed Paul.

"I would think they don't want to alienate his supporters or him," he said.

Straw polls

The intensity of Paul's backers is also apparent in their ability to mobilize to help Paul win several straw polls at various political events.

Their willingness to show up en masse to vote has irked some Republican and conservative activists, who have claimed Paul's people have hijacked the polls.

After Paul won the Values Voters Summit October straw poll, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hinted that the ballot box may have been stuffed.

"There were 600 people, over 600, that registered today just for the day, there were a number of people that left after Ron Paul spoke," he told reporters after the event. "You do the math."

Paul has topped the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll for two years straight.

When the results of the 2011 straw poll was announced, David Keene, then-outgoing chairman of the American Conservative Union, downplayed the results.

"It is what it is. It's a straw poll," Keene said. The audience, filled with Paul supporters, booed.

In Iowa, Republicans have worried that a Paul victory on Tuesday could hurt the state's credibility.

Terry Branstad, Iowa's five-term Republican governor, went as far this month to say a Paul win should be ignored and that whoever finished second should be considered the winner.

That's a reflection of the commitment of Paul's supporters and the impact they can have in a caucus with a low voter turnout.

"Enthusiasm times organization equals turnout," said Drake University professor Dennis Goldford in a recent interview. "In a small pond, a modest-sized rock makes a big splash."

By:  Newswire

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