SANDPOINT — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul drew an estimated crowd of 1,200 people in this small town today to hear his Libertarian-tinged themes of smaller government, an end to the Federal Reserve and more individual freedoms.
The mix of young and old supporters was a sign that his campaign continues to gather support, Paul said at the Bonner County Fairgrounds in this town of 7,000 in the Idaho Panhandle.
“Four years ago if I came here I would not have drawn 100 people,” Paul told reporters after the rally, held the day before Idaho holds its presidential caucuses.
Paul is hoping for victory in at least one of the caucus states — Idaho, Alaska and North Dakota — on Super Tuesday. The Texas congressman is last among the four GOP candidates with 25 delegates.
“This one of our best states,” Paul said of Idaho. “We expect to do very well.”
Paul was asked by an audience member why evangelical Christians should vote for him.
“Whether someone is a Catholic or a Jew or an evangelical Christian, everyone should vote for liberty,” he said.
No religious group should receive special privileges at the expense of others, he said.
Asked about his electability, Paul said persistent remarks that he cannot win the general election hurt his campaign. But he believes he has the best chance to beat President Barack Obama.
“What I say is difficult, it challenges the status quo,” he said.
Mainstream Republicans have failed to inquire why his campaign draws so many young people that other GOP candidates do not attract, Paul said. He also said the paucity of his television coverage also limits his ability to influence voters.
“They’d rather have a small party and pretend they can beat Obama with old cliches,” Paul said of the GOP establishment.
He said the two major parties sound different, but their policies are not that different.
Paul said he does not envision dropping out of the race anytime soon, and that his strategy is to continue to garner delegates heading into the GOP convention.
During his speech, Paul drew applause for saying that the federal government must shrink, that the Federal Reserve should be abolished and the federal income tax eliminated. He said he wanted to cut $1 trillion from the federal government in his first year as president.
“We need to change our foreign policy to the defense of this country and not be the policeman of the world,” he said.