Several thousand people turned out to hear GOP candidate Ron Paul at the University of Minnesota the night before Super Tuesday. Though running well behind, he seems undaunted.
Paul Swiatek and Sara Kriedeman wanted to make sure they were in a good spot to hear the words of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. After arriving at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium about 5 p.m., the two found themselves in the front row of the latest meeting of what is being called the "Ron Paul revolution."
"We've been following him ever since we heard the first Republican debate," said Kriedeman, a university student. "I like what he says."
They certainly weren't alone. An event that was originally scheduled to be held at Coffman Memorial Union was moved across campus to the larger venue, and several thousand people -- young and old -- listened to Paul talk about his desire to end the war in Iraq, follow the Constitution more literally and make sure individual liberties are protected.
Paul acknowledges that his message has been better received in Minnesota than in other places. That's why he spent the final evening before 21 GOP contests across the country here. His reason was simple.
"I saw it as an opportunity, saw it as a good state," Paul said. "Our money can go further."
As important as Super Tuesday is in determining who will secure the Republican nomination, Paul said today is far from a make-or-break day.
Instead, he simply wants to continue gaining momentum. "There were 11 candidates and now we're down to four," he said. "I don't think we're in fourth place at all. We started low, and we keep going.
"If I dropped out, my supporters wouldn't be happy."
During his 40-minute speech, Paul acknowledged that his expectations have been exceeded.
"We've reached a lot more people than I ever believed we would," he said.
It was probably fitting that Paul appeared at the university, because while the longtime congressman from Texas is 72, he has been hugely successful connecting with young voters.
A search for "Ron Paul" on YouTube yields 109,000 viewing possibilities. He also has more than 125,000 friends on MySpace and more than 80,000 supporters on Facebook, two popular social networking websites.
"I offer the message to everybody, but these young people have found me on the Internet," said Paul, who also held a pair of North Dakota rallies Monday afternoon. "They know what I'm saying, and they've been getting a bad deal.
"I talk about personal liberty. They get to decide their own lifestyle. ... Young people have a lot at stake and understand this message."
Paul, a physician turned politician, wants an immediate end to the war in Iraq, and says he would bring home U.S. troops from other spots in Europe and Asia. He supports a reduction in taxes and in the size of government. Rep. Paul, a Republican from Texas who voted against the Patriot Act advocated by President Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks, wants people to be able to live their lives without government interference.
"Why are we spending all this money [internationally] when we're hurting at home?" he said.
Those ideals have spurred Paul's success on the fundraising trail.
According to Federal Election Commission, the $111,745 Paul received from Minnesotans in the fourth quarter of 2007 was more than any other Republican received in the state.
While his ideas have been often associated with those of Libertarians, he said he's very much a Republican, one who believes in following the U.S. Constitution in a more literal way.
"I would think [the other Republican candidates] have lost their way," he said. "I'm more of a traditional Republican. They quit acting like Republicans."
Paul, however, needs for his fundraising to translate into success at the polls sooner rather than later.
While he remains optimistic entering today's Super Tuesday events nationally, his biggest vote total in any of the eight previous GOP contests was the 63,063 he received in the Florida primary.
"We've done miraculous things," Paul said. "We're taking on everyone -- the entire system."
Staff writer Bob Von Sternberg contributed to this report. Jeff Shelman • 612-673-7478
IT'S FINALLY HERE: Now it's voters' turn at the caucuses. A1
HIGH TURNOUT FORECAST: That and more absentee ballots could mean a long night of counting. A3
OBAMA, PAUL LEAD IN MINNESOTA DOLLARS: The two candidates got the most in donations from state residents. B5