Could Ron Paul finally be getting the momentum he needs in the 2012 Republican primaries?
Probably not, but his speeches and campaign appearances look like some of the most energetic and most heavily attended we’ve seen in these primaries.
On Wednesday night Paul spoke to a capacity crowd in a University of Illinois gym. It was reported that the attendance was the biggest ever for a Paul speech. The libertarian congressman touched on foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, and economics, and received numerous standing ovations.
Paul may be running dead last in the state primary, but his message seems to be resonating more and more with voters. In terms of foreign policy, some of Paul’s GOP rivals are even starting to position their platforms to parallel Paul’s staunch hands-off, limited engagement approach.
It seems that Paul was never in this election to actually win the GOP nomination and become president, rather his run seems to be more directed at changing the policy compass for the wider Republican establishment. Paul is helping libertarianism become more mainstream, and it seems to be working.
Paul spoke to 4,500 at IU.
According to CBS News, Paul said at the rally that recent shifts by some of his rivals on the war in Afghanistan a sign that he's "winning the fight" with his signature hands-off foreign policy.
Asked about recent comments made by GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum saying that the U.S. should back off in Afghanistan and review its commitment to the country, Paul replied, "It's about time."
"But they're what we call chicken hawks. And they talk a lot, they push the wars, they themselves haven't gone, and they don't serve, and yet they... promote the wars," he said.
"Sure the politics are changing, and that's great. We're changing people's minds. The American people are sick and tired of it," Paul said. "And like I mentioned in my speech, I spent five years trying to prevent the war in Iraq. So if they want to come on board now, fine and dandy. That means we're winning the fight."
Paul won standing ovations for his calls to "bring our troops home!" He also told the crowd, made up mostly of college students, that "the other candidates on our side are saying we need to fight more wars."
According to a Sunday Chicago Tribune poll, Paul trails all other candidates in the state, with 7%. Mitt Romney currently leads Santorum 35% to 31%, while Gingrich is notching 12%.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore