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Paul, son target Santorum in N.H. campaigning debut

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NASHUA, N.H. — Rep. Ron Paul, running a distant second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in New Hampshire polls, arrived here to a thunderous rally with supporters Friday for the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday's primary.

"All I can think about is, freedom is popular," the Texas Republican said as he greeted about 300 roaring supporters at an airport hangar. "Momentum is picking up."

Mr. Paul, who finished a close third behind Mr. Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, has been absent from New Hampshire while his rivals have been crisscrossing the state since Wednesday. He has been airing a radio ad in the Granite State warning voters that nominating Mr. Romney would be a "recipe for defeat" against President Obama.

The latest tracking poll in New Hampshire shows Mr. Paul trailing Mr. Romney, 40 percent to 14 percent. Mr. Santorum is close behind at 11 percent and gaining.

Given Mr. Santorum's surge, the first thing the Paul campaign did upon hitting the ground in New Hampshire Friday was to attack the former two-term senator over his tenure in Washington, portraying him as someone who wasn't consistently conservative.

Mr. Paul told reporters that Mr. Santorum "brags about being for a balanced budget amendment -- he never did anything about it. But four or five times he voted to raise the national debt."

"He voted to double the size of the Department of Education at the same time he voted to increase massively the prescription drug program, which is a medical program that is not paying its way," Mr. Paul added.

Mr. Paul said his absence from New Hampshire was part of his plan, and that he has invested a significant amount of time and money in the state.

"We're going to emphasize exactly what the opponents believe in," Mr. Paul said. "This is not a state that likes big government. And if they do go for somebody who's voted for big government, that means they didn't get enough information. My job in the next five days is to explain what they have supported in the past. All my opponents support way too much government. There's a lot of people thinking about it, so there's still a lot of room for change in our numbers."

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican and the candidate's son, said Mr. Santorum "never voted against foreign aid" and voted to double the size of the Education Department while in the Senate. He never mentioned Mr. Santorum by name but said he was a "certain senator from Pennsylvania."

"Just any old Republican won' t do," Sen. Paul said. "That's why the primary makes a difference. There's only one candidate who has a plan to balance the budget in one term" as president.

Rep. Paul, long the best-known libertarian on Capitol Hill said he wanted to address his rivals' criticism that he is "dangerous," a reference in part to his pledge not to interfere with Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

"In a way, we are [dangerous]," Rep. Paul said, adding that his opponents "are in danger of getting routed from the system."

"'They are frightened about losing their power," he said.

His supporters interrupted Rep. Paul frequently with cheers and chanted, "President Paul!"

"He's the most honest candidate," said Heidi Sands, 45, of Alton Bay, N.H. "He's not corruptible."

The candidate also planned to hold a town-hall meeting later Friday night.

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