Ron Paul was not the type of candidate that fit in well with Sioux County voters four years ago. This deeply religious and conservative community rejected his libertarian message. Paul received only three votes out of the 500 or so that were cast by caucus goers in Sioux Center, the county’s largest town.
Fast forward to Friday. There were more attendees at his stop in Sioux Center than the 137 people who voted for him in the whole county in 2008. Ron Paul’s message has not changed, but the country has. So have the minds of Sioux County voters.
Lorna Wilson caucused for Mike Huckabee four years ago. Ron Paul can count on her vote this time around. “It took me a little while to really understand what he’s saying and what direction he is coming from,” Wilson said. “After I listened to him today, I realize how important the freedom issue is and that means freedom for others as well as ourselves.”
Sioux Center grouped all its caucus precincts into one large site four years ago. The college student who spoke on Paul’s behalf told the crowd “Let’s be honest, we all know America is no longer a great country.” The remark went over as well as a fart in church.
Four years later, Paul’s campaign is smarter. His surrogates have been reigned in from the behavior that turned off many voters last cycle. His base has expanded from angry, male college students to Iowans of all ages.
“We support Ron Paul because we feel like he’s the only candidate right now who is truly fiscally conservative,” said Bethany Van Raalte, a young mother who attended Paul’s Sioux Center event along with her husband and two young sons. “He doesn’t have anything in her past where he’d have to explain or flip-flopped on. He has a very pure record. We feel like he’ll bring a future for our boys.”
Even Paul’s most questionable stances on foreign policy did not seem to shake the crowds he spoke to in Sioux Center and Le Mars. “I do not worry about a foreign government or a foreign entity attacking us. There is nobody that can come close to even thinking about touching us,” he said at the Le Mars Convention Center.
I wondered if Paul had forgotten about 9/11, but he brought it up just minutes later, with a comment that bordered on 9/11 Trutherism. “There’s a lot of debate and explanation on exactly how that came about,“ he said.
“I like his ideas about foreign policy about not policing the world and not just going to war,” said Sharon Drent of Sioux Center. The 175 voters in attendance in Le Mars did not seem to mind, either. That is a staggering crowd number for an event in Plymouth County. By comparison, Michele Bachmann’s recent 99-county tour was launched from Le Mars. She drew less than 30 people for that event two weeks ago.
Ron Paul admits that his foreign policy views are to the left of President Obama. So, it makes sense that his appeal stretches across party lines. John Jacobson of Le Mars caucused for Democrat hopeful John Edwards four years ago. Ron Paul is his candidate of choice this time. “He understands the issues very well,” Jacobson explained. “He says the right things for the right reasons. He had my full attention the whole time.”
Only 101 people in Plymouth County voted for Ron Paul in 2008. It is another reliably Republican county. Judging from Friday’s event, Paul’s ’08 total is likely to be tripled on January 3. Ron Paul obviously has a lot of fans in this conservative section of the state. That means trouble for the rest of the GOP field.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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