DES MOINES, IOWA — There's a very good reason that long-serving Texas Congressman and Tea Party Godfather Ron Paul has rocketed up the ranks in this crucial early caucus state: passion. Specifically, the kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm and dedication he inspires in young first-time caucusers like Carl Bisenius and his friends.
"I've made my decision and I'm going to vote for Ron Paul," said Bisenius, 19, of neighboring Ankeny, Iowa. "Mostly because he seems the most honest. He's got the best record out of all of them and I really agree with everything he says." Bisenius said he's been absorbing as much information as he can about the Republicans vying for the nomination while volunteering at a Paul call center in his hometown and he's convinced that the libertarian fire starter is the one who can beat President Obama.
"A lot of people are sick of politicians lying all the time, and he's one of the only honest politicians left," said Bisenius.
As he huddled around a table on Sunday night at Mullet's, a beer and burgers joint in the shadow of the state capitol in downtown Des Moines, Bisenius' confidence was bolstered by some cold, hard facts from friend Jay Fieser, 20, of Iowa City. A political science major the University of Iowa, Fieser said he paid "a bit" of attention to the 2008 election in which Paul also ran and has since learned enough about early 20th century foreign policy that he believes Rep. Paul is the man for the job.
"I think it would be interesting to see the United States going back to some kind of policies like that ... ending the policing of the world," said Fieser about Paul's non-interventionist arguments. As he spoke, an endless barrage of commercials from candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry flashed by on the bar's flat screen TVs as the top candidates made a final, furious push to woo Hawkeye State voters.
"His foreign policy is what really drew me to him ... I don't like the two-party system here and he doesn't seem heavily invested in the Republican Party and they don't seem to like him that much. People are saying if he gets elected there will be a reshuffling of the parties and I'd like to see that."
Paul has drawn attention for a number of his beliefs, inlcuding not intervening in international conflicts, voting against the Iraq war, withdrawing from the United Nations, rejecting amnesty for illegal aliens and eliminating such federal government agencies as the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and IRS.
And, in some ways, Fieser said it is precisely because the rank-and-file of the GOP and the mainstream media have ignored or ridiculed Dr. Paul that he is so interested in the former obstetrician's views. "People are kind of sick of what's been going on in Washington for so long ... I think they're really staring to look at Ron Paul because of that," he said.
It is one of Paul's more radical ideas — returning the U.S. to the gold standard — that caught the eye of first-time caucuser Daniel Swenson, 18. "He seems to be the really only candidate that his voting record reflects his policies and principles he stands for. That's what really draws me to him," he said, citing Paul's claims that returning to the standard the country abandoned in 1933 in order to emerge from the Great Depression could help turn around our current economic crisis.
Like his friends, Danielson said he planned to do his part in the days leading up to Tuesday's vote by talking to his family and other undecided voters about Paul's policies and trying to sway them to cast a vote for the second-time presidential candidate.
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