BOONE, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul says the media continues to write his candidacy off even though he’s polling in the top tier in this state.
At a campaign stop here on Thursday, the Texas congressman drew applause by saying reporters will have no choice but to take his effort seriously if supporters “pull something off” and he wins a surprise victory at the caucuses on Jan 3.
“Believe me, it’s going to be tough for them to ignore it” then, Paul told those who crammed into a local library for a town hall with the candidate.
His supporters have been energized by the latest Des Moines Register poll, which shows him trailing only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“There was a big Iowa poll out just last week and it showed Ron Paul has moved up to second place now in Iowa,” said David Fischer, a supporter who introduced Paul to applause at the library in Boone.
Yet while Gingrich may be leading Paul in the polls, observers in the state note that Paul has a much more robust campaign operation in the state.
“A guy like Ron Paul could outperform his numbers,” influential Christian conservative Bob Vander Plaats told The Daily Caller in an interview this week.
“The reason is his organization is loyal,” he told TheDC. “He’s built this over years. And they’re going to show up. Ron Paul supporters are going to show up on Jan. 3 over ice and a blizzard whatever the conditions to go support their guy.”
Fischer emphasized to Paul’s supporters that “it’s our job as Iowans to go to the caucuses and tell the rest of America which of the presidential candidate has the message that America needs to be looking to. … Lets all make the commitment to turn out on caucus night.”
Paul’s loyal following was evident Thursday night, when he addressed a gathering of several hundred students at Iowa State University who gave him a standing ovation.
At the Boone town hall event, Paul admitted while chuckling that he hasn’t quite figured out why many of his most loyal supporters are young, despite how he is in his seventies.
“You know, I’ve been asking that question myself for a long, long time,” he said.
Paul said, “It used to be that parents would drag high school kids to my office and say, ‘you know, we’re having a civics lesson today. This is your congressman.'”
“But now, the young people drive their parents to my office and the parents admit it and say, ‘he got me interested in what you’re doing,'” he said.
“That excites me when I hear that,” Paul added.
The libertarian-leaning Republican is admittedly different than the other candidates running for president and has a clear philosophy on the role of government.
Asked about cancer research, for example, the former physician said: “It’s not a proper function of the federal government.”
Paul on Thursday criticized how the United States in the past has gone into counties to “dictate to others how they should live” because it “just doesn’t work.”
“How annoyed would we be if China decided to do that to us and put a base on our land?” he said.
He added: “We’d probably all believe in the second amendment if they tried that on us. This stuff backfires and costs too much money.”
Paul vows to cut spending by a trillion dollars and get rid of five cabinet agencies if he makes it to the White House.
“We have to change course, we can’t tinker,” Paul said. “In Washington, they’re tinkering around the edges.”
Paul kicked off a three-day swing through Iowa on Thursday at an employee town hall meeting at the headquarters of Principal Financial Group, which is based in Des Moines.
Asked by reporters afterward about a recent hard-hitting video about Gingrich that his campaign released, he joked, “Oh that guy that used to be the speaker?”
Then he said his ad was just about him trying to “present the facts.”
“Its all were doing,” he said.