As I sit--actually in Iowa! On the ground!!--watching Sean Hannity on Fox ask every other candidate and pundit about Ron Paul's newsletters, here (in Iowa!) on the evening before the day Dr. Paul either does or doesn't make history for his libertarian ideas by winning the Iowa caucus, let's talk about Ron Paul's whistle-stop tour across the state with his son, Senator Rand Paul.
I don't think they literally rode a train--I saw no tracks near the Prime and Wine restaurant in Mason City, in whose back meeting room I caught event five-of-five of the political Pauls' busy pre-caucus day.
But they were certainly barnstorming, pounding the pavement, burning rubber, and various other metaphorical displays implying lots of strenuous effort involving travel, to rally the troops one last time to make sure they show up at their precinct to caucus! caucus!! caucus!!! for Ron Paul and liberty, starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Iowa time.
Driving in to the event from Des Moines, I heard on leading Iowa talk station WHO-AM a Paul campaign ad specifically hitting Romney for being a TARP and ObamaCare loving liberal. (I also heard a Rick Perry ad attacking Rick Santorum for being a big spender and a loser. Rick Perry, former lead singer of Journey, is apparently still running for president.)
In the back room of the Prime and Wine, all 50 or so chairs were full a half hour before start time. The Paul crowd eventually spilled over into the other section of the meeting room as a sliding wall was slid away to make room for them. The crowd ranged from infant to aged, and was not particularly youth-oriented, though probably at least 15 percent were under 30.
Rand Paul did the usual Rand Paul thing, leading with an anti-Washington joke involving the girl who asks God for $100 (I don't want to ruin the punchline if you don't know it) and delivering more of an emphasis on "welfare cheat" style wasting of government giveaway resources than dad ever does. Rand reminds us that the government is borrowing $2 million a minute, and talks up his dad's resolute refusal to take congressional perks or junkets, his refusal to vote for an unbalanced budget, and his big support among donating members of the military.
Ron Paul did a quick and condensed version of his usual campaign stump speech, uncomposed and unrehearsed (except in the sense he gives a version of it over and over again). Paul jumps quickly from point to point, hitting on the federal abuse of the interstate commerce clause to interfere with trade between the states rather than help keep it free and unrestricted, how we have 100 years of bad thinking about freedom and the role of government to reverse, how we foolishly divide personal and economic liberty, and how his foreign policy of peace and free trade has a sterling GOP pedigree (mentioning Eisenhower's military-industrial complex speech).
He tells us how our responsibility is to care for our people at home, not manage or save the world. He makes one of his rare references to his not-quite-open-borders, not-quite-border-wall attitude about immigration by mentioning we ignore our border while we are busily defending borders in the Middle East and Asia. He only gets ornery when mentioning the NDAA's codification of the president's ability to lock us up for any old reason he pleases. And I wondered: who needs conspiracy theories when this kind of law is passed in full public view?
My take on the expectation game as it's being played today by the campaign: Rand Paul is boldly declaring victory earlier today, though not in Mason City. Ron sounded quite optimistic in Mason City tonight though not swearing a victory--merely saying "I think we may have dramatic good news tomorrow night." A source close to the Iowa campaign tells me he's sure they won't win, though granting most of the grassroots volunteers still think he will, but who knows how the expectations are being spun and why. Paul's political director Jesse Benton in the MSNBC clip below is confident but not bragging and insists Paul could beat Obama:
Both before and after the presentation--Ron rushes right out afterward, none of the usual questions or meet-and-greet--I meet and talk to an almost perfect range of stereotypical Ron Paul fans: the teen who spends most of his time following Ron around the country and photographing him, just because he thinks Ron's cool and hanging out with Ron's fans across the land is fun; the local volunteer precinct chair for Paul, who also holds office with the local GOP, who makes sure he emphasizes the grassroots volunteers don't necessarily just do what the official campaign tries to tell them to do; the mom from Minneapolis who drove down with her daughter because she thinks only Ron Paul can save America's future (and who likes to take photos of his crowds because she insists the media constantly underestimates them; my estimate for this Mason City event was 120 or so); the proud dad of a nuclear engineer on a Navy Sub, who got a photo of the son and his submarine signed by Ron and Rand--both dad (a farmer) and son love Ron Paul; the Alex Jones fan who carries around a silver certificate to remember the time money was real; the over-50 builder of vehicles that run on vegetable oil in a rasta hat who is also a Republican Party precinct worker and manager because he loves Ron Paul; and a random handful of other earnest Iowans, almost all of whom were volunteering a lot of their time and effort for their man, serving as precinct reprentatives for Ron Paul at the caucus tomorrow, making sure someone gave a good pro-Ron speech at the caucus, and that Ron signs and stickers and swag were available for the folk.
A handful of the people I spoke to had done this same caucusing work for Ron in 2008, but swear that the overall vibe of Ron love is way, way higher now--and the polls certainly bear that out, where he's doing more than twice as well as he did in 2008. Volunteers hand out a volunteer-written suggested set of talking points for selling Ron to the caucus-goers Tuesday, including his consistency, desire to end the wars, prescience on the dangers of the housing bubble and the Federal Reserve, and plan to cut $1 trillion in year one.
One bit of bad news I heard from a frequent Iowa Ron Paul phone banker, casting shadows on the strategy of getting independents and Democrats to show up tomorrow and switch registration to Republican in order to caucus for Ron Paul, which they legally can do: he says even many Democrats who love Ron and would vote for him in a general election still refuse to have anything to do with the GOP caucus process when they are called, and say they will not do so tomorrow. Of course, he merely talked to the people he talked to, but he said that lack of willingness to switch parties for Ron this week was something he heard a lot.
Remember: the caucus is non-binding and has no necessary connection with how Iowa's delegates vote at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this summer. Here's how the Iowa caucus process works, briefly noted. And remember: lots of RP fans are quite suspicious that the vote will be gamed and faked tomorrow (although the official campaign poo-poohs such fears.)
Driving back from Mason City to Des Moines, I heard leading evangelical Iowan radio star Steve Deace try to finesse his endorsement of Newt Gingrich, by saying that while both Ron Paul and Newt had major and good Biblical beliefs--Paul on the welfare state and Newt on the rule of law--he cannot ultimately countenance Ron Paul because Paul has a Pelagian foreign policy.
Deace cannot, he says, stand a commander in chief who can actually understand why Iran might want a nuclear weapon ("I don't want my president sympathizing with the Mullahs," more or less), and that all good Christians understand that the reason you have a military is so they can kill other people before they kill you, thus answering the question: Who Would Jesus Bomb? Anyone he suspects might bomb him!
Real Clear Politics poll aggregation 10-day average has Romney up 1.3, but a Public Policy Polling of likely caucus voters from the past two days has Paul ahead by a point, though falling in overall percentage committed and finally falling below 50 percent in favorability, but still leading in strong commitment from his potential voters. (Biggest shock of that poll: Buddy Roemer at 2 percent!) Neither I, nor apparently the people of Iowa reached by phone by pollsters, are making any sure and firm predictions.
*details on his campaigns' plans to work the caucus system to their advantage in other states moving forward;
*a summation of Paul defending himself from inaccurate media charges over the past weekend;
*Yahoo! reporting on Paul's earlier Iowa appearances on Monday;
*and a profile of that most famous and numerous of Iowa voter, the still-undecided one....
...and as I've continued to watch Fox for the past hour, every single interview devolves into a dumb attack on Ron Paul, whether it be with his opponents, Donald Trump, Dick Morris, Tucker Carlson, or RNC chair Reince Priebus. Fox has spoken tonight!
Tuesday, Iowa gets to do the same.
Buy my forthcoming book on Ron Paul, and get it in about four and a half months.