- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa — While Ron Paul is now running among the big dogs after placing fifth in the last Iowa caucuses, he’s delivering stump speeches virtually identical to those he gave four years ago.

But Mr. Paul’s unwavering focus on his core principles is what supporters said they love about him when they gathered Monday morning at the Des Moines Marriott to hear the libertarian-minded congressman speak in the final day before Tuesday voting.

They chanted his name as his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, took the stage to introduce his father, kicking off an event-filled day in which the two also campaigned in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Mason City.

Climbing to second place in recent presidential polls, Mr. Paul has unleashed a slew of attack ads on Newt Gingrich. But the newfound attention doesn’t seem to have changed his campaign script, as he delivered his usual attacks on central banking, U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and federal spending.

His noninterventionist views on foreign policy have alienated some conservative voters, who have traditionally favored more hawkish candidates. But he didn’t give any indication of softening his views on the topic, instead telling voters he is the only candidate who offers something truly different.

“Believe me, you don’t have to worry about the choice if you choose another candidate, because the others represent the status quo - variations of the status quo - but they’re not talking about a foreign policy to defend America,” he said. “They’re talking about mischief around the world and policing the world.”

The talk delighted his supporters filling the hotel ballroom.

“I love Ron Paul because of who he is and I love that he’s not taking polls to see what he should talk about,” Ankeny resident Mandie DeVries said.

“When they asked him, what’s your weakness, he said, ‘My delivery could be stronger,’ ” she said. “And it’s true, but that’s one of the things that’s so amazing about him is that he’s pulled together this excitement, this kind of enthusiasm, and he’s an old man that has these ideas that everybody says are crazy.”

More than the other candidates, voters tend to have strong preferences either for or against Mr. Paul - perhaps one reason why his campaign didn’t seem to be seriously damaged by recent reports of bulletins published under his name containing derogatory statements about blacks, Jews and gays.

Supporter Derek Balsley, who drove downtown from the suburb of Alleman with his wife and 10-week-old daughter, acknowledged that Mr. Paul isn’t the smoothest candidate but attributed his support to a stout ground campaign and strong ideas.

“You’re either drawn to his words or you’re not, but you’re not going to be drawn to his charisma,” Mr. Balsley said. But “they’ve put in the effort, their ads are brilliant this year, their ground game is brilliant this year, and they’re doing all the hard things that the other candidates haven’t been willing to do to get Iowans’ vote.”

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