- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NASHUA, N.H. — A gaggle of reporters surrounded Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul after his speech to the Liberty Forum Sunday afternoon. Standing nearby, Valori Pyeatt watched proudly as her grandfather, the 72-year-old obstetrician and 10-term Texas congressman, opined for the press.

Although trailing in polls and excluded from a Fox News debate Sunday night for what the cable network said was lack of support, Mr. Paul remains a much-watched, independent force. New Hampshire’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” fits handily with his political philosophy of less government and more choice.

Mr. Paul has appeal at the grass-roots level, and his supporters travel from across the country to knock on doors, distribute copies of the Constitution and tell voters where their candidate stands.

“It’s all about freedom, and he’s woken up a lot of people,” said Fritz Schrom a father of 10 and Purple-Heart-decorated veteran from Lancaster County, Pa.

“He’s brought a lot of people out of apathy,” Mr. Schrom said. “He’s a statesman, not a politician.”

Hollywood has taken note of Mr. Paul’s rise to a fourth-place standing in Iowa and 8 percent support in New Hampshire polls on the eve of today’s primary. While his fellow Republican contenders appeared on Fox News Sunday night, Mr. Paul flew to Los Angeles after a town hall meeting for a taping with Jay Leno on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

“We never dreamed that the campaign would get this big,” said Miss Pyeatt, 22, a Texan whose official title is fundraising assistant, but who has been traveling across the state in support of her grandfather’s campaign.

She touts his platform of limited government, ending the income tax, abolishing the Federal Reserve and moving toward a gold standard.

Still, to Miss Pyeatt, “he’s a regular grandpa.”

Supporters note that Mr. Paul has not wavered from his political views since first elected. While others may have held a finger to the wind of public opinion, Mr. Paul, who ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 1988, has been resolute in defending his maverick views.

Unlike other presidential candidates, Mr. Paul financed this campaign using individual contributions — not big-money donors. In the last quarter of 2007, he brought in $20 million. Much of that was generated on the Internet, where he reportedly raised $6 million in one day. That has enabled him to broaden his staff and run radio and television ads like better-financed candidates.

Outside the hotel that hosted the forum, Paul supporters Pedtro Aguiar, 39, and Steve Costa, 31, both of Massachusetts, said it was the first time they had contributed to a campaign.

Mr. Costa said Mr. Paul is not the right man for those who are appeased by sound bites.

“Ron’s message is not a simplistic view of the world,” said Mr. Costa, a budget analyst who is drawn to Mr. Paul’s message of controlling government spending.

At the forum inside, Mr. Paul echoed that sentiment and challenged the status quo on the war in Iraq, U.S. debt and other issues.

“What we need to do is revive the love of liberty once again in the hearts of all Americans,” he told the audience. “For me, liberty means that we are in charge of promoting virtue and promoting excellence.”

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