The Ron Paul phenomenon - Page 2

The Ron Paul phenomenon: How a Republican presidential campaign caught fire in San Francisco

And his dependability is starting to gain traction with libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

"A real mix of people are brought together by Ron Paul's message because we sense the danger in the country," Gerald Cullen of San Francisco told the Guardian. "I think the [George W.] Bush administration has just about destroyed the country. Nothing in the Constitution provides for a president to attack another country that hasn't attacked us."

Paul is a self-proclaimed noninterventionist and has opposed the war in Iraq from the start. He is by no means liberal or progressive; he's more a classic conservative who opposes government regulation. "A lot of people are frustrated by the different regulations and infringements on our liberty day in and day out," said Ralph Crowder, who lives in Berkeley. "Ron Paul's not trying to sell you on himself; he's just selling you the message of freedom."

And while there are varying definitions of freedom, Paul's fundamental noninterventionist belief translates into a variety of positions that appeal to voters on both ends of the political spectrum. He sees the USA PATRIOT Act as a breech of civil liberties; wants to stop US involvement in the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other free trade agreements; and supports bringing American troops home from Iraq posthaste.

Appealing to the opposite end of the spectrum, he is also staunchly antichoice, introduced legislation in 2004 to repeal bans on assault weapons, and wants to beef up the US's borders.

Adrian Bankhead, who also lives in Berkeley, wants Paul to be the Republican nominee but disagrees with his social policies too heartily to vote for him in the general election. "His social views against immigration, abortion, affirmative action, and women make me nervous," Bankhead told the Guardian. But Bankhead respects what he sees as Paul's fundamental honesty: "He is the only Republican nominee who would not steal the election in November."

However, Bankhead's position is a minority one among Paul supporters. Crowder and Cullen, for instance, agree with almost everything Paul says. "There's not much difference between where he stands and where I stand," Crowder said. And Cullen, who worked for Paul during his 1988 bid for the presidency as a Libertarian candidate, sees the candidate's principles as "very much in line with the old Republican Party principles ... before the madness took over the country."

Stephanie Burns, one of the main organizers of online Bay Area meet-up groups, says she agrees with Paul "all the time."

There are more than 80,000 Ron Paul online meet-up members around the country — 452 in the San Francisco group as of the writing of this article — and most of them find themselves in complete agreement with Paul's perspectives.

Scott Loughmiller sees the Paul campaign as being in a prime position to steal the nomination, with his polling numbers rising, his momentum building, and plenty of money in the coffers. "We're right where Kerry was in 2004 going into the primaries, when [Howard] Dean had already been crowned winner by the media," Loughmiller said.

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