Presidential hopeful and Texas congressman Ron Paul was back in the Lone Star State this past week on a three-day campaign swing through College Station, Dallas, Fort Worth, where he drew large crowds to hear his message of restoring liberty and shoring up the economy.
Political observers said the longtime legislator faces an uphill battle to win the Republican Party's nomination, but Paul said he's not thinking about quitting.
Even as Rick Santorum withdrew from the race on Tuesday, Paul was landing in College Station to speak at Texas A&M University that night, where more than 3,000 people, most of them college students, turned out. On Wednesday Paul appeared at a luncheon in Dallas and that night he spoke at a town hall meeting in Fort Worth at the Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium. Later that evening he flew to San Antonio for another town hall meeting on Thursday.
Paul sat down for a one-on-one interview with the Glen Rose Reporter before his address in Fort Worth.
Dressed in a dark suit and wearing shoes that looked like they'd tread many a mile, Paul met with the Reporter in a bare-bones backstage dressing room. He had no make-up people attending to him; it was just an available space with a mirror, sink and a couple of chairs.
Sitting with his legs crossed, Paul answered questions conversationally. He did not have a large entourage hovering around him. Had he not been the guest speaker, one might have mistaken him for just another guy in the crowd.
Paul received a warm welcome in Fort Worth, where about 3,000 attended the town hall meeting and began standing in line hours before the auditorium doors opened. Many were students holding campaign signs and others who like his message of limited government, a plan to balance the budget and less involvement in foreign conflicts.
The candidate's town hall meetings in Texas have been organized by Youth for Ron Paul, which has almost 600 chapters nationwide and has recruited almost 54,000 supporters.
Even though Paul's message has resonated with young people in particular, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the presumptive GOP nominee. But don't count Ron Paul out just yet.
Paul has launched a new round of commercials attacking his Republican rivals as a "debt-raising fiscal liberal" (the departing Santorum), a "moon colony guy"(Newt Gingrich) and a "moderate from Massachusetts" (Romney)— and playing up his Texanness. The ad's punch line is "Big. Bold. Texan."
Following is a transcript of the interview:
Q. The most obvious question, given Rick Santorum's decision, is what impact will his dropping out of the race have on your campaign?
A. We're not certain exactly what it will do, but I can't see how it would hurt. I think there's a very good chance it will help because the people who supported Santorum were more anti-Romney than anything else. I think they're going to look for another candidate and (Newt) Gingrich is not doing so well right now with his finances, so I think we're going to pick up some votes.
Q. Will you stay in the race until the end?
A. I can't say what I'm going to do in the end. All I know is right now, it would be not a very good idea for me not to continue. A lot of people are motivated and activated. They're going through the process of becoming delegates, so it doesn't crossed my mind when the support is strong and money comes in and the crowds are getting larger.
Q. I was looking at the crowd earlier and it's very diverse -- young, old, college students, different ethnicities. It's quite a mix of people.
A. And that's exciting. My message is different. My message is individual liberty, the Constitution, anti-war….It baffles me the Republican Party leadership isn't more interested in talking to these young people or the people who support these views because at the state level, so often in the different states, they've been met with a lot of resistance. Sometimes they are very resentful -- "Who are these people coming in, taking over our party?" If there's a large number with different views and they want to build the party, I think they (the GOP leadership) should recognize that.
Q. There's a nuclear power plant in this part of this Texas, the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant near Glen Rose, that has applied for a license to build two new reactors. What is your position on nuclear power and do you support federal loan guarantees or do you think the federal government should stay out of the business?
A. I have a nuclear power plant in my district too in the Bay City area and they were really well on their way to getting the plant built until that disaster in Japan. I think nuclear energy is a very good source of energy. It's probably the cheapest and actually, even with its faults, it's probably the safest. As horrendous as that accident was in Japan, the radiation hasn't killed anybody. It's the (tsunami) that kills people.
But no, I want the market to make all the determinations -- whether it's safe and viable and what the price should be. I think if you had the market determining what the best source of energy would be, I think nuclear would win or at least be a part of it. But once government gets involved it becomes political and you have Solyndra (a company that received a $535 million loan guarantee as part of the Obama administration's program to encourage growth of alternative energy sources; then last September, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laid off most of its employees), funds going to solar energy and wind energy. Only the market can decide whether that's going to be competitive. Billions of dollars can be spent going in the wrong direction. So instead of having more political influence, I want less. For this reason, although I support nuclear energy, I don't support the funds. They should deal with the waste and pay for it. If the insurance slips by the taxpayers, then we don't know how much this energy is really costing. Only the market can sort this out; same way with wind power and solar power and figure out what it's really costing.
Q. Since you've been in Texas, have you been hearing anything different from voters about the issues that most concern them?
A. Well, I don't hear too much about Texas interests, but people in Texas have the same interests that I hear around the country. They're worried a whole lot about the deficit, and the young people don't take it for granted. They're concerned about it because they're going to inherit it. The polls are showing that we're on the right side….They're concerned about the war in Afghanistan and a large majority are saying it's time we ought to come home. Of course, my argument is that we shouldn't go unless there's a declared war finds a lot of support all across the spectrum. That's an issue that I can get support on from both left and right. Just like everybody around the country, with the (financial) bailout...they don't like the idea that the Fed can deal in trillions of dollars in bailing out privileged corporations and banks and not even be audited or supervised by the Congress.
Q. Do you believe the size of the deficit threatens our national security?
A. If you look at it historically, it's finances that bring nations down, not the ultimate military battle. We didn't have to fight the Soviets. The Soviets destroyed themselves by getting too far involved around the world. Their economic system is actually more vulnerable than ours is. And they finally went bankrupt and their system collapsed. The same thing will happen to us. That is the biggest threat. It's a national security threat, and we're trying to understand why deficits are bad and how they create big government and how the Fed permits it to happen. If we didn't have the Fed to create new money to buy that debt, the spending would quit. When they do it that hides the trouble for a while, and you can consume well for a long time, for decades. But eventually when you consume all the wealth in the country and you live off debt and good jobs go overseas and there's no production, then you get into the mess we're in now. It is major. It is a BIG issue.
Q. And you saw what happened when consumers when they spent more than they were bringing in.
A. They find they have to spend less, get two jobs and sell some stuff. But the country, especially when you have the privilege of issuing a reserve currency of the world and people take this currency…We've been living way beyond our means, thinking we can issue dollars and everybody still takes our dollars. I think that's a fiction. It's a myth that we can do this and have it last forever. And I think what we're witnessing is the beginning of the end of the dollar.
Q. The main issue voters in Texas seem to really be concerned about is the economy and jobs.
A. We hear a lot about in Texas, just like around the country, and Texas isn't nearly as bad as some of these other states. There are people still moving to Texas, and they do bring some industry here. But in California and Arizona, the Northeast and the Midwest, they're losing jobs and losing people, but they won't change their ways. The federal government provides a lot of problems with the distortion of money. Overregulation and overtaxation makes it less competitive. They place a burden on the state, the artificial pressure on wages pushing wages up through union wages and minimum wage laws, this pushes labor up and takes it out of the market. The market should dictate all these things. That changes the job market, too. Our state is better off than some other states.
Q. Do you consider yourself a politician?
A. I guess if you're in politics, you're a politician. But most people compliment me by saying you do not fit the category of a politician. I guess technically I am, but hopefully the negative aspect of being a politician, I'd like to think that I'm not. A lot of young people use that as one of the reasons they support me. They say, "We like what you say and when we go check your record, you actually voted that way, too." So that seems to impress them.