by Jamie Hale
Republican Presidential hopeful Ron Paul rallied the troops in Idaho Falls Monday night, through chants of “end the fed” and “Obama sucks.”
Paul spoke for 50 minutes to nearly 2,000 people in Idaho Falls’ Civic Auditorium, giving a speech that was more ideological than it was political. Among his main priorities were ending the federal reserve, reducing international military presence and, the crowd’s favorite, returning personal liberty to the people.
“What we need is less government and more liberty and we will solve our problems,” said Paul, to thunderous applause. “Today our personal liberty is under threat and if there’s just one thing you need to protect it’s personal liberty.”
Standing in the way of that liberty is the government intervention in Americans’ daily lives, he said. “People think if the government doesn’t do it it won’t happen. That’s not the case,” said Paul. “If the government doesn’t do it, we’ll do it for ourselves and maybe we’ll do it much better.”
The crowd gave loud cheers to lines like that, and weren’t afraid to show their support for Paul’s ideas. In fact, the crowd was more raucous than one might expect from a typical political rally. Before Paul took to the podium, supporters started chants while volunteers on stage hyped their candidate and even the rally’s after-party. “This isn’t an AARP convention” shouted a volunteer. “Let’s get rowdy!”
Dustin Ashment is one of those fervent Paul supporters. “[Ron Paul] is the only candidate that really offers anything that’s real change,” he said. Ashment, an Idaho Falls resident, got in line nearly three hours before Paul was scheduled to take the stage.
To him, Paul is the only option. “We’re tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils,” he said.
The rally came one day before Super Tuesday, when 10 states, including Idaho, will have to choose one of the Republican candidates to represent the party in the Presidential race in the fall. Idaho, which overwhelmingly voted for Paul in the unofficial January straw poll, has 32 delegates to give in the Tuesday night caucus.
Despite his fervent supporters, Paul has come in third and fourth place in the primaries so far, relegating him to a position of influential libertarian guru, rather than a serious Presidential candidate.
Paul has excited a sizable support base with his primarily libertarian positions that focus on individual liberties, U.S. isolationism and low tax rates. His politics put him squarely on the outskirts of the Republican party, making him unique, but unappealing to many in the party.
One thing he has going for him is the age of his supporters. Ashment, 28, came to the rally with his 21-year-old brother. They weren’t the only youth in attendance. Several hand-painted signs read “Youth for Ron Paul” and many young kids held signs in the audience.
“A lot of the older generation doesn’t listen to what we, the younger generation, has to say,” said Ashment. While older voters get their news from traditional TV and print media, the young Paul fans use the internet–and that makes a difference, he said.
Voters in Idaho will get a chance to show their solidarity for Paul on Tuesday. It would be a huge upset for Mitt Romney, who toured the Gem State last week to rally support, and would mark the first statewide victory for Paul in the primary race.
Both Ashment and his brother voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, but said they’re voting for Paul this year, even if he isn’t the Republican nominee. “I think most Ron Paul supporters will only vote for Ron Paul,” he said, even if they have to write his name in on election day.
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com.