Republican presidential contender Ron Paul may be trailing the rest of the GOP pack in the primaries, but he also seems to be the only candidate who is able to bring in huge crowds to his speeches.
Is Paul's popularity on the rise?
Speaking in California Wednesday night to an overflow crowd at a tennis center at UCLA, Paul drew what might have been his biggest audience yet. Estimates put the crowd total at between 6,000 to 10,000 people, filling into the 5,800-seat stadium, with others climbing nearby trees to see the speech.
The Texas congressman hammered home his typical message for a smaller federal government and a change to the nation's “empire-like” foreign policy.
"The problem... boils down to one thing -- government is way too big," Paul said, drawing wild cheers.
Paul has been able to make amazing inroads with younger voters, especially college students.
In March, Paul spoke to a capacity crowd in a University of Illinois gym, where it was reported that the attendance was the biggest ever for a Paul speech, at just under 5,000 people. Just before the GOP primaries in Wisconsin earlier this week, Paul drew 5,200 to a Madison event in 40 degree weather.
All around the country, there has been a similar trend: everywhere Paul goes, stadiums are packed, campuses are filled, and hundreds have to wait outside. His 45 plus minute speeches always hit on the same notes — opposition to the welfare-warfare state, the dangers of endless war and fiat money, and what to do about it — but are still filled with the nervous spontaneity of no notes or teleprompter.
And everywhere he goes, the crowds only grow larger. Paul may be running last in these primaries, but his message seems to be resonating more and more with voters.
Still, this ground-level enthusiasm is not directly translating into an increase in poll numbers.
Nationally, Paul polls at just 12%, while GOP rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum stand at 39% and 26% respectively. Paul’s campaign shouldn’t count on his polling numbers to shoot up either. In the next biggest primary state — Pennsylvania on April 24 — a PPP poll puts the Texas congressman at 9%, while Romney has 42% to 37% for Santorum.
But while Romney may be the Republican frontrunner, he has an enthusiasm gap to make up forr: only 11% of GOP voters in this week’s Economist/YouGov poll would be excited if Romney became the party’s nominee.
Paul, on the other hand, is flying largely under the radar, bringing his campaign — and this, his message — all over the country. And as PolicyMic pundit Robert Taylor explains, the soft-spoken doctor seems to be more than happy to be ignored by the media as long as he gets his libertarian message across.
As the GOP primaries drone on, Paul seems to be gaining more and more traction.