Presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul greets supporters during a campaign event Thursday in Atlantic, Iowa; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
ATLANTIC, Iowa | First stop after arriving Thursday in Iowa to cover the Republican presidential Caucuses: Atlantic, a small town in the western part of the state, about halfway between Des Moines and Council Bluffs. This is GOP territory and about 150 people – many of them young, in their teens or 20s — were crowded into a room at the Cass County Community Center to listen to Ron Paul.
The Texas congressman held their attention as he railed against the overreach of the federal government. Much of the focus was on U.S. foreign policy, criticizing the war in Afghanistan and threats against a nuclear-ambitious Iran. Paul decried the size of the federal budget deficit and the government dictating too much of what Americans do. “We get our rights from our Creator, not Washington.” At the same time, he acknowledged the problems didn’t start with President Obama: “It was 1913 when they started the income tax,” something he’d like to repeal.
Paul has developed a loyal following among libertarian-leaning Iowans, especially young people. Hundreds of twenty-somethings are spending “Christmas with Ron Paul,” their housing provided by the campaign while they work the state for the candidate.
He was surrounded as he headed for the exit, but I had a chance to talk to him briefly, long enough to hear him say he feels good about how things look – he’s running second in most recent polls – and to learn he’s going home to Texas for New Year’s weekend. I asked if that means he feels so good about his position in the Hawkeye State, he can afford to take off a couple of days right before the Caucuses. “No, I would never say that,” he answered with a big smile.
Now, we’re heading back to Des Moines to interview undecided Republicans. You’ll hear what they have to say on the NewsHour Friday evening.