Who Is Ron Paul? Unlikely Candidate Gains College Support

This story was written by Emily Holden, The Daily Reveille
With presidential election primaries underway and more approaching, one candidate is drawing interest from a voter base that is generally underestimated -- college students.

The name Ron Paul has been chalked on sidewalks and proudly paraded on bumper stickers around campus for the past few months.

Paul, a 72-year-old Libertarian congressman from Texas, is running as a Republican in the presidential election.

In the caucuses, he received 6 percent of the votes in Michigan, 8 percent in New Hampshire, 10 percent in Iowa and less than 1 percent in Wyoming. His campaign platform includes ending the war in Iraq, lowering taxes and limiting the power of the federal government.

Paul Dietzel, College Republicans president, said there is an untapped voter base in college campuses around the country.

"I think over the last year you've seen a lot of decline in student involvement," Dietzel said.

Trent Hill, president of Students for Ron Paul and history sophomore, said the college voting base is essential to Paul.

Dietzel said many college students support Paul because he's "walking the line" on major issues.

"I think we're at a time in our country where both sides are leaning toward the middle," Dietzel said. "I don't think it's necessarily cool to be liberal or Republican. I see a lot of moderates."

But Dietzel said Paul does have some very unique ideas.

"He is more likely than other candidates to voice his opinions because he doesn't have the fear of losing votes," Dietzel said.

Ryan Merryman, Students for Ron Paul recruiting officer and history senior, said there is a difference between those supporters and the "grassroots" supporters who are actually calling people and walking door-to-door.

Hill said Paul's grassroots strategy has a lot of appeal to the working class.

Kevin Kekich, business management junior, said college students support Paul because they are in a phase, and he is the "indie" candidate. He said while he likes some of Paul's stances, he does not like him or his policies.

"Personally, I think he's a well-educated idiot, and I think a lot of his policies would not work for today's world," Kekich said.

Kekich said his problem with Paul is not his ideas about small government but the degree of small government that he wants.

Kekich said the state governments could not handle major disasters without the help of the federal government.

But Hill said Paul would only get people away from dependency on the government.

Merryman said Paul would want to leave major decisions up to the states. For example, Paul thinks drug legislation should be decided on the state level. He said while some college students support Paul for his views on legalizing marijuana, the majority of college campuses do not.

"I think his ideas look good on paper, but if they were actually implemented, they wouldn't work very well - kind of like communism," Kekich said.

Merryman said younger generations may support Paul because he wants to do away with the government programs that were enacted without their vote.

Kekich said Paul's idea to do away with the Federal Reserve and the IRS would "send this country into a spiral."

"He claims it would help the poor, but I disagree," Kekich said.

He said he does like that Paul is aggressive about universal health care and immigration.

"Paul has many supporters because he wants to end the war," Kekich said.

Hill said Paul is not an "isolationist" but just wants to avoid conflict.

Paul has demonstrated his campaigning abilities over the past few months.

Hill said Paul has a "wide and deep following" that is shownby his ability to raise $20 million in three months.

Morgan Wright, state activity coordinator for Students for Ron Paul, said Paul "is huge on the Internet, but the main problem is getting him on the mainstream media."

Hill said most supporters know there is a "slim margin" of chance that Paul will win.

"It's a slow climb, and there may be a ceiling on it," Hill said.

Jeanie Streat, a 67-year-old supporter who attended the Students for Ron Paul meeting Thursday night, said Paul's campaign is a losing battle, although it is good students are letting people know they have more choices than just the major candidates.

Hill said Paul is "too radical for Washington because he wants to follow the constitution."

Stephanie Lockwood, microbiology junior, said Paul's campaign is affecting how other candidates are advertising their platforms. She said they are leaning more toward following the constitution.

While Dietzel believes Paul may be looking for a bid for vice president, Hill said Paul probably would not consider an offer for vice president because he disagrees with other candidates' stances on the war.

Hill said he thinks Paul will end up back in Congress after losing the presidential bid.
© 2008 The Daily Reveille via U-WIRE