Ron Paul: Shaking up the GOP base

(LIN) – Listening to his speeches, one would never guess Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has yet to win a state contest in the 2012 election cycle.

“Just remember, the revolution is only beginning,” Paul told crowds in Maine, as the caucus returns were coming in.

Paul didn’t win Maine, but it was the closest he’d come to notching his first victory.

His calls to shrink the federal government, return to a system adhering to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, reinstitute the gold standard and end all foreign wars have drawn thousands to his campaign events.

“I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous,” Paul said to supporters after the New Hampshire primary. “They are telling the truth. We are dangerous to the status quo.”

His supporters look to him as the godfather of a “return to liberty” movement that could change the political establishment.

Angela Davis, a Paul supporter in Topeka, Kan., said Paul “follows the Constitution on every question, every time, without fail.”

A large amount of Paul’s devotees are 18, 19, and 20-year-old first-time voters who have seen an expansion of federal power and who have grown up with the U.S. at war for most of their lives. Some are at the forefront of his speeches, chanting “end the Fed,” a popular rallying cry of Paul followers.   

 “Without the Federal Reserve's bad practices in the first place, we wouldn't have even been able to fund the wars,” said 21-year-old Paul supporter Jeremey Uneberg.

Yet even with an immense, dedicated following, the libertarian-turned-Republican struggles with the electability issue. His out-of-the-box ideas often clash with those of mainstream Republicans.

"I don't know anyone who believes Ron Paul's going to be the nominee— [anyone] on a professional level," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "He's having really a quite a marginal impact on the race right now. And I don't see anything likely to change that."

One difference-maker might be that same area where he connects with young voters — his isolationist foreign policy. The issue is particularly relevant as rumors swirl that Iran trying to construct a nuclear bomb. Paul advocates talking with Iran, while candidate Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, prefers a more aggressive approach to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

"The role of our government is to defend liberty, not to run the economy and certainly not to police the world,” said Paul at a campaign stop.

“Ron Paul will be a very dangerous commander-in-chief,” said Santorum.  “We will degrade those facilities through airstrikes, and make it very public that we are doing that,” he said of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Even though Paul sits in fourth place nationally, he insists his strategy to amass the most delegates in caucus states will make him a force at his party’s convention in the summer. Whether they will welcome him with open arms is another story.

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