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Paul hopes enthusiastic crowds will net him Missouri delegates

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2012 - Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul went barnstorming this weekend through the Show Me State, hoping to harness the dynamism of his supporters for a win in Missouri’s upcoming caucuses.

Paul, a GOP congressman from Texas, spent Saturday afternoon speaking to an overflow crowd, estimated at 2,500 by his supporters, at Lindenwood University in St. Charles. (Click here to watch a video of Paul's appearance.) That's a larger crowd than what greeted Sen. Rick Santorum at his appearance in St. Charles. (Paul was also scheduled to speak at an event Saturday evening in Springfield.)

Speaking to a crowd jammed into the university's Hyland Arena, Paul railed against what he deemed to be an ever-expansive government.

“Government has nothing,” Paul said. “Government never created a thing. They don’t have productive jobs. They’re destructive and they take money from the productive class with spending. So we have to challenge the entitlement system. It sounds very good. Because somebody needs something or wants something or demands something, they don’t have a right to something.”

“What we have a right to – we have a right to our life, we have a right to our liberty, we have a right to own our property and we have a right to get the government off of our backs,” he added.

Paul, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president in 1988, also touched on issues that have set him apart from the other presidential candidates. He railed against the Federal Reserve, an entity he said was responsible for “runaway spending. 

He also spoke out against the “runaway war on drugs in this country,” something Paul said amounted to an infringement on civil liberties.

“This is always an excuse to be able to bust in houses with no search warrants,” Paul said. “And it boils down to what should the role of government be. Should the role of government be to be an instrument to protect us against ourselves and our own bad habits? That’s what they have assumed.”

Paul also touted a non-interventionist foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and Iran. That’s in contrast to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – who also spent the day campaigning in Missouri. Santorum, who won the state's non-binding Republican primary in February, has often tussled with Paul during debates over Iran.

“Israel has 300 nuclear weapons, Iran has none,” Paul said. “I mean, what’s the reason to lose sleep over that? .… I think Israel should have their independence and their sovereignty. We shouldn’t tell them what to do on the defense of their borders.”

High hopes for caucuses

Paul’s visit comes a week before Missouri’s Republican caucuses are set to begin in most of the state. Despite Santorum's overwhelming victory in February, the caucuses will decide how Missouri's 52 delegates are allocated. 

When Paul ran for president in 2008, he was known more for raising surprising amounts of money and drawing enthusiastic crowds than winning. For instance, he placed a distant fourth in Missouri’s 2008 primary.

This time around, Paul has come within striking distance of winning some contests. He’s also managed to win some delegates, which could be important if one of the remaining presidential contenders fails to round up enough by the Republican National Convention.

But despite the gains from four years ago, Paul’s campaign still hasn’t won a primary or caucus during this year’s presidential election cycle. That’s the case even though his campaign hoped to have a strong finish in Idaho, Alaska and North Dakota.

In an interview with reporters after the speech, Paul said he hoped that the enthusiasm of his supporters could net him some delegates in Missouri.

“All I know is, there’s a fertile field here,” Paul said. “And when I go and get crowds like this, I know that there’s enthusiasm’s there. My job is to deliver a message and energize the people.”

Brent Stafford, a Paul supporter from St. Charles, urged attendees to show up early to next week’s caucuses. He also encouraged them to go with friends, which he said would help Paul’s chances.

“The only way for Ron Paul to win Missouri delegates is for every one of you to go to your caucuses,” Stafford said. “The best way for that to happen is to not only for everyone here to go to their caucuses, but to take someone with you. Do not go to your caucuses alone.”

Andrea Berghold of Festus said people “underestimate how people are willing to go the extra step to be a delegate for him, as opposed to some of the support that other candidates are getting.”

“He wants to follow the Constitution,” Berghold said. “The reason we’re in the situation that we’re in right now is because there because there have been too many people ahead of him who’ve ignored it. So it’s a rulebook. We have to play by the rules. We’re a republic, we’re not a democracy.”

Jeff Allison of Herculaneum said Paul’s performance in the caucuses will “depend on how much research people have done on the candidates instead of listening to the biased, controlled media.”

“Ron Paul has been true to his word ever since he’s been in there,” Allison said.

Paul is not running for re-election to Congress. And if Republicans fail to win the presidential race this year, some speculate that his son – U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky – could take up the mantle.

Asked whether his 2012 campaign could boost his son’s chances in the future, Paul said, “Well, I sure hope I don’t hurt him.”

“He’s his own person, he does what he needs to do,” Paul said. “We don’t even talk much about politics. When he ran for the Senate, I think I went in one time for him. So he does it on his own and we don’t talk about what I’m doing and how that’s going to affect him. I think he’ll take care of himself pretty well.” 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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