Commentary: Ron Paul on the Line

By Beacon Staff

On signs, on the radio, on fliers at the local coffee shop, the same question is posed: “Have you joined the Ron Paul revolution?”

I haven’t – my vote is still up for grabs. But, as his Flathead Valley support continues to swell, plenty of area Paul backers are ready to cast theirs. It began as a small group of supporters who meet on weekends in the Kalispell library basement; it became more visual when much of us woke up to hundreds of signs in support of Paul’s candidacy (so many, in fact, that some folks were irked and called the police); and it continued last weekend when KGEZ’s conservative (and oft-controversial) host John Stokes interviewed Paul on the air and invited all his supporters to eat free bratwurst in his parking lot to show their support.

While Montana’s presidential primaries are traditionally quiet and increasingly irrelevant, Paul’s Flathead followers have wasted little time rallying around their candidate. This could be brushed off as further evidence that Northwest Montana remains this state’s Republican stronghold. But, in many ways, Paul is this year’s anti-Republican. He’s anti-tax and pro small government, but also anti-war and opposes the Patriot Act.

It is his staunch Libertarian views that have made him somewhat of a folk hero to different shades of political stripes. He has found a place where many disgruntled conservatives, along with some liberals, see a common ground. He has especially resonated with young people who pack college auditoriums and scream just as loud when he says, “bring the troops home now” as they do when he promises to abolish Social Security.

And last week he was a little late calling in to Stokes’s show. But Stokes didn’t care, nor did the sign-waving Ron Paul revolutionaries lining the highway in front of his radio station.

When Paul did call, Stokes quickly pressed, “When are you coming up?”

“As soon as I can get there,” Paul said.

It may be a while. As candidates turn much of their attention to the all-important Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire primaries, Paul has some ground to make up if this revolution is going to stick. He barely registers in polls in those states and in early October, according to Gallup, 72 percent of GOP voters didn’t know enough about him to even form an opinion.

That appears to be slowly changing as Paul differentiates himself from the rest of the field during Republican debates, especially with his staunch opposition to the war. Members of Congress, who once rolled their eyes at his seemingly unorthodox views, began paying attention after Paul raised $5.08 million in the third quarter and became wildly popular on the Web.

“I think they are starting to pay a lot more attention,” Paul told Stokes.

And Paul isn’t only appealing to right-wing-leaning radio listeners. Actor Tom Cruise thanked the candidate for fighting a bill that would force mental screening for grade-school kids when the two men were guests on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Paul’s passionate support hasn’t yet translated to a bump in the polls, but one theory is that many of his supporters, young men between the ages of 25 and 34, own cell phones instead of land lines, thus they aren’t contacted for phone polls.

Nonetheless, Paul’s chances of winning the primary are, to say the least, unlikely. But as Montana Republicans meet for the party’s first February caucus – a move meant to make them more relevant but allows just 3,000 party officials to choose the presidential candidate – they’re bound to get an earful. Something about a revolution.

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