Ron Paul

Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Los Angeles– At California’s usually staid GOP state convention, hundreds of unlikely Republican activists – many sporting porkpie hats, dreadlocks and tie-dyed shirts – lined up Saturday to cast ballots in the party straw poll, then jammed meeting rooms and hallways to ecstatically greet their favorite candidate.

“President Paul! President Paul!” they chanted, carrying signs proclaiming the “Paul Revolution,” as Rep. Ron Paul of Texas swept from event to event at the convention and decisively won Saturday’s straw poll with 44.9 percent of the vote.

The object of all the passion and excitement was not a show-horse presidential candidate like Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Tea Party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann – but the longshot and somewhat rumpled renegade Paul. The ardor bestowed on the unlikely star was clearly a matter of discomfort at the convention, which attracted more than 1,000 GOP activists.
Disregarding polls, pundits

The youthful crowd who make up the congressman’s brigade call themselves “Paulistas.” They insist they are unfazed by polls showing Paul to be a mere footnote in the race or by media pundits who dismiss him as fringe and even fanatical. They invaded the halls of the Marriott hotel, chanting “End the Fed!” and wearing T-shirts saying “I’m voting for peace.” And they overwhelmed the typically unremarkable straw poll when huge crowds waited to cast ballots for their man.

“It’s everyone, all walks of life,” said Orange County commodities broker Allan Bartlett, looking around at a packed hall. “What they crave is a consistent political philosophy.”

Paul far outdistanced his nearest rivals in the straw poll. Perry finished second with 29 percent, Mitt Romney was third with 9 percent and Bachmann came out fourth with just 8 percent of the 833 total ballots cast.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Paul appeared nonplussed by the adulation, saying that his views – admittedly unorthodox by GOP standards – separate him from the rest of the pack and attract Americans who “value freedom.”

“They’re young people, mostly, who realize our country’s in a mess … and they’re very open to the ideas of liberty,” said Paul, 76. “They’d just as soon assume responsibility for themselves … be left alone, get the government off their back and get out of wars.”

Paul declined to rule out a possible independent presidential run if he fails to secure the GOP nomination. But, he emphasized, “I have no plans to do it.”

“It’s the wrong thing to think about,” he said. “If I go around here and talk to people, and I said, ‘Well, I guess our Plan B is when we lose in January, we have to start a third-party movement’ – that would be so negative.”
Focus on individual freedom

Addressing a matter that earned him boos in the most recent Tea Party debate, Paul told The Chronicle that he stood by his criticisms of the United States’ policies – not the country, he insisted – after Sept. 11.

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