He is practically legendary on the First-in-the-Nation Primary campaign trail, where his passionate band of volunteers and supporters have been the envy of other campaigns struggling to fill phone banks and distribute yard signs in the snow. He comes from Texas, but is a household name for conservatives across the country. He was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. He’s Ron Paul.
This is the fiery Texas Congressman’s third time running for President, but he tells us that he believes that – despite lack of media attention – his message is more relevant and his supporters are more energized than ever.
We met up with Ron Paul at the end of a brief campaign swing through the Seacoast. A frequent visitor to the Granite State since announcing his candidacy, Paul discusses his view of the First-in-the-Nation Primary: “This is a great state. They have a tradition of promoting individual liberty, and I think if we bomb here we are not worth our salt. This is fertile field for us. And we have a lot of support – it’s growing.“
We move on to discuss the Tea Party movement, which shares many of Paul’s long-held views on small government and individual liberties. He calls the movement “healthy” but notes that Tea Party groups are far from homogeneous. “Obviously the Tea Party is just a broad group of people that believe that something is terribly wrong in Washington,” he says, “And they are not arguing that government isn’t big enough; they argue that is isn’t small enough.”
Paul spoke to his background as a physician when it comes to health care reform, noting that he views Obamacare no differently than Medicare, and believes individuals should be able to opt-out of any and all government programs. “You cannot wave a wand and get the government to get out of everything. You have to preserve the right of opting out,” he says. He advocates a state’s rights approach to health care administration, stating, “There are some things we can do at the national level, but it needs to be minimal.”
When the conversation turns to foreign policy, we discuss his heated back-and-forth with former Senator Rick Santorum during the recent Iowa debate. Paul acknowledges that his foreign policy views differ from those of many old-school Republicans, but asserts, “My disagreement is with a lot of the old fashioned Republican leadership and not with the people,” going on to say that he believes more and more voters are coming around to his point of view.
Paul’s third place finish in NH Journal’s most recent New Hampshire poll – just a few points behind Rick Perry and several points ahead of Michele Bachmann, who narrowly beat him in Ames – is proof of his strong following in the Granite State. What remains to be seen is whether he will be able to grow that base to encompass enough primary voters to carry him to a top finish. One thing we know for sure: Ron Paul believes he is the right leader at the right time to go the distance.
Watch footage from our interview here:
Amanda Markell contributed to this report