While other candidates were speaking at coffeehouses and diners on the day before the Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul was greeted by a crowd of 500 and scores of national media who packed a downtown hotel ballroom for a morning event.
“This is almost like a real rally,” the Republican presidential hopeful exclaimed. “This is great!”
Polls show Paul in a position to pull off an upset victory in the caucuses Tuesday night, an accomplishment that, if it happens, would amount to one extremely sharp stick in the eye of the GOP establishment.
The turnout had Paul’s supporters crowing.
“For somebody that doesn’t have a chance, this is some crowd,” said Monte Goodyk of Sully, Iowa. “This is the beginning of the second revolution.”
Paul was introduced by his son, Rand Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky.
“There’s energy. It’s overflowing. And it’s coming tomorrow,” Rand Paul told the crowd. “We’re going to win in Iowa tomorrow.”
If Ron Paul does win, it will be viewed widely by analysts as a fluke, a one-shot that will do little to derail Mitt Romney’s march to the GOP nomination. But Paul’s supporters don’t buy that — and many of them aren’t interested in supporting other Republican candidates or worrying about what the political press thinks.
“I think they’re a bunch of losers, whining and crying,” said Tara Wilkens of Seattle, who came to Iowa to support Paul’s efforts. She called the crowd in the ballroom “super-exciting. It’s contagious!”
Ron Paul said the same. “The enthusiasm is growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “The crowds are getting bigger.”
Paul, too, framed the choice Tuesday between him and the rest of the GOP field. “The others represent the status quo, variation of the status quo.”
In his speech, Paul hit his marks, talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, shrinking the size of the federal government, warning about the invasion of personal privacy on the Internet, and criticizing President Obama for signing the recent Defense Authorization Act, which, he said, could lead to the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.
“Treason! Treason!” some in the audience shouted.
Mandie Devries is a Paul supporter who said she would speak on his behalf at a caucus meeting in Ankeny, Iowa, on Tuesday. “I’m trying to get all my friends and family there,” she said. “That’s really all we can do — fight for the right thing.”
Devries said she was unsure whether Paul could pull it off, but Goodyke, a former Romney supporter, was more confident.
“He’ll win in a landslide,” he said. “This guy — he stirs a passion inside of people.”