DES MOINES, IOWA—Ron Paul drew another large, enthusiastic crowd here last night. Carrying homemade "End the Fed" banners and donning t-shirts emblazoned with "Ron Paul Revolution," hundreds of people packed into the Knapp Animal Learning Center (sadly, there were no animals) on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair for a veterans rally. When Paul visited the State Fair in late August, his speech at the Des Moines Register's traditional soapbox got little attention as crowds gathered anxiously to hear new frontrunner Michele Bachmann and speculated about the imminent entry of the Texas governor Rick Perry. Now, Paul is leading most Iowa polls and has earned a level of ground support that has eluded the other candidates in Iowa.
At the rally, Paul didn't veer far off his standard stump speech. He had no reason to; the speech is heavy on the foreign-policy issues that have earned Paul the support of veterans. Paul's campaign frequently touts the fact that he has more campaign donations from active-duty military than all of the other Republican candidates combined. It might seem surprising that the one candidate who favors sharp cuts to Defense Department spending would receive such vehement support from veterans, but those who have witnessed the consequences of the military's over commitment find Paul's anti-war, close-the-bases take appealing. "I like most of his stuff, so I thought I'd come down and see what it's all about, " said Caleb Thompson before the event. "I just like his foreign policy, trying to get the troops home and not spread out all over the place." Thompson, 20, just returned from Iraq and was visiting Des Moines, his hometown, during his leave. He said he doesn't align himself with either political party and is not normally a very political guy, but he plans to caucus for Ron Paul next week before his leave ends and he heads to Fort Riley in Kansas.
Besides Paul's opposition to fanning U.S. troops across the globe, it must also help that while Paul would eliminate social services for almost everybody, he doesn't think they should be curtailed for veterans. "So often veterans are shunned," Paul said last night. "They don't get the treatment they really deserve, the money is getting wasted elsewhere."
There was a minor hiccup early in the event when a handful of protestors from Occupy the Caucus started a mic check that included a teenager asking at the top of her lungs how she will be able to afford college. "Freedom of speech, ain't it wonderful?" Paul said with glee as the occupiers kept shouting. "There's been a lot of attention—there are a lot of problems," Paul continued. "The problems are manifested by a lot of people being upset in this country and I think a lot of people have that. We're all upset and want to change it in Washington. Matter of fact that's what our purpose is." The occupiers were led to the back of the room, where a few Paul supporters came over to challenge their claims. The yellers were eventually escorted out of the room though some of the quieter protestors admitted they liked the libertarian candidate.