Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may not have won a state primary yet, but he remains a favorite to win Spokane County.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 2,300 shouted their support for Paul during his 45-minute speech Friday evening at the Spokane Convention Center.
Paul is the second Republican presidential candidate to visit the Inland Northwest this week as Washington and Idaho prepare for their presidential caucuses early next month. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum spoke to about 600 supporters in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday.
Paul, who was introduced by state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, started his speech pointing to his strong base of support. In 2008, Paul finished first in the caucuses in Spokane County, capturing 46 percent of the vote.
“Four years ago I was told that there was a brush fire started here for the cause of liberty,” he said. “It looks like it’s much bigger than a brush fire right now.”
Paul, a Texas congressman who ran for the GOP nomination four years ago and was the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 1988, criticized the Iraq War and recent government bailouts of economic institutions.
“The people who should have had the depression got the bailout,” he said. “The American people ended up owning this debt.”
He called for less foreign intervention, halting the war on drugs, the repeal of the Patriot Act, an end to federal income taxes and a return to the gold standard.
“The reason that the big government people detest gold is because they have power if they can create the money out of thin air. Then they can distribute it to their friends,” he said. “When you destroy a currency, you destroy the middle class.”
Paul said the government is “endless in taking away our liberty.”
“Once we make this assumption that the government can protect us against ourselves, there is no liberty left,” he said.
He also called for an end to government assistance to the poor.
“Where in the world did we ever get this idea that if you’re not entitled to go to your neighbor’s house and take what they have and you don’t have, what made it legal and what made it moral to send the government to do that?”
The enthusiastic crowd included diverse age groups.
Alex Vail, an 18-year-old from Colville, said he supports Paul because of his commitment to civil liberties and reducing the country’s debt “so my generation and my kids and my grandkids aren’t going to have to pay-off their great-grandparent’s debts,” he said.
Craig and Kelley Lewis, of Rathdrum, brought their two sons to the rally.
“Once you get past the media’s bias, you realize he stands for everything we do,” said Kelley Lewis.
Craig Lewis added: “He stands up for the Constitution more than any of the others.”
Spokane resident Nate Hoeksema said Paul seems like the only “genuine” candidate. He said he’s uncertain how he’ll vote for president if Paul doesn’t win the Republican nomination.
“I feel like a vote for anybody else would be a vote for ‘It doesn’t matter.’”
It’s that lack of enthusiasm for other GOP candidates among some Paul supporters that worries some Republicans. After his speech Paul said he has “no plans” to run for president as a third-party or independent candidate should he lose the GOP nomination.
“I am in a good race right now,” he said. “Even in the states that we don’t come on top in the popular vote, in many of those states we’re going to come out very well in the delegate vote and that’s what really counts out in a campaign like this.”