By the Time We Got to Ronstock

With the Paul campaign at the Iowa Republican Straw Poll


(This article has been corrected since publication: The names of two Paul supporters, Brian Costin and Jeremie Bellenir, were initially misspelled.)

AMES, IOWA – It has been said before and I will say it now: the Romneys are one good-looking family. The enormous stage they've rented for the Ames Straw Poll is large enough to fit the whole clan and a small cover band as Father Mitt delivers a gauzy speech about the joys of the Hawkeye State. After he wraps up, the Romneys sidle off the stage to take photos with eager young Republicans, sign T-Shirts, and respond to friendly questions with even friendlier answers. Then the video cameras pick up an awful din.

"Ron PAUL! Ron PAUL! Ron PAUL!"

Ten steps away a phalanx of people with Ron Paul signs and T-shirts are clattering and yelling, disrupting the Romney tableau. Like a gun's gone off, a gang of Romney kids in blue T-shirts sprint over to hoist their own signs and yell slogans, chasing the Paulites back to their tents. They're confronted by a counter-chant.

"We're NOT paid volunteers! We're NOT paid volunteers!"

Clumsy, but it stings a little. The Romney volunteers crumple like Abercrombie and Fitch models who've been told the photo shoots are cancelled. They fade away and the Paul fans laugh.

"Well, they know when to shut up."

Somebody asks where the 30-odd Paul people just came from.

"Inside the Romney camp," says the megaphone-toting Brian Costin.

"Into the belly of the beast," someone laughs.

Supporters of Ron Paul entered the grounds of Iowa State University with modest expectations. It costs $35 for a ticket that allows you to cast a vote, a clear advantage for this campaign, which happens to have the most money to spend. Everybody knows that Mitt Romney will win, although no one knows by how much. (There are rumors that he's spent $5 million, that he has a block of 20,000 tickets, that he's using the Philosopher's Stone to bring back Lord Voldemort.) But lots of the people in and around the Paul tent expect to pull a strong second, at least.

"There's a lot of anti-war sentiment in this state," said Wisconsinite Keith McBreyer, leaning back in a folding chair inside Paul's main tent. "The Paul campaign got going kind of late… you didn't see much organizing until May. I didn't, anyway. But if Paul can't win here he can't win anywhere else."

Paul's campaign staff, looking incongruous in slacks and ties and dropping buckets of sweat, admitted that they didn't game out the Straw Poll or do the voter-targeting and ticket-buying that the leading campaigns have. (The campaign told me in June that they weren't "trying to buy it like some people.") They spent rather modestly on their tents, booked a DJ and a band, and bought hot dogs and popcorn to compete with the pulled-pork barbeque, baked beans and pasta salad of the Romney and Brownback shindigs. At the last minute the campaign bought 800 voting tickets which slowly found takers as the day went on. "We didn't make that decision until around 10 days ago," a Paul campaign staffer said.

As a result, the Paul camp is a mish-mash of official efforts and grassroots activism that's often hard to tell apart. In the last week the Paul campaign launched a rough-edged TV ad that focused, more than the candidate has in the debates, on his social conservatism. And in the last 24 hours before the poll a group of Paul supporters bought a full-page ad in the Ames Tribune: dubbed the "Ron Paul Mosiac", it creates a portrait of the candidate from snapshots of hundreds of supporters. It looks slick, but it's about a movement, not a message. It doesn't mention abortion, for example. In his TV ad and in a 2 p.m. speech to the straw poll, Paul hones in on the "sanctity of life." His call for the repeal of Roe vs. Wade gets as much applause as his more familiar call to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment.

"I think that's part of the freedom message," Paul told me. "You always want to broaden the base, and in this area, in this state, you want to appeal to social conservatives without sacrificing any principles."

The tent wasn't exactly brimming with social conservatives. Most of the people who'd showed up and marched around the university grounds—more than three thousand, all told—are youngish, under 40, some old enough to have kids, and some still approaching their 20s. And as Garance Franke-Ruta found, yes, some of them were kooky. One volunteer trotted around in a Eddie Munster outfit—black shorts, white shirt, red bow tie—handing out pamphlets. Another arrived from voting and opened a laptop to blog at the neo-Nazi website Stormfront.org.

But this was, let's remember, a Republican straw poll, and kooks flowed through the fairgrounds like water. Walk a few paces and witness a strangely silent family of Aryans hand out Alan Keyes literature, walk a little further and listen to an Elvis impersonator rewrite some of the great man's gold records with new lyrics about California Rep. Duncan Hunter ("I dream of Duncan Hunter every night/Duncan Hunter's policies will make it right").

None of them mattered; none pissed in the collective punchbowl quite like the Paul crowd. Still flush from the Romneycrash, they plotted a 12:30 p.m. march around the grounds. Anticipation started to boil. A few minutes from the march a middle-aged drummer boy (George Tremblay) and a flautist (John Weins) dressed up in pirate duds climbed a hill near the Paul tent and started playing Revolutionary War songs. The crowd started to gather around them, then built when Brian Costin pied-pipered more fans out of the tent with his megaphone. As they clustered, Chris King, a 14-year-old black kid from Pittsburgh, pumped his fist and jumped to psych them up.

"Join the REVOLUTION MARCH!" King screamed. He then panted, and recovered some energy. "Join the REVOLUTION MARCH!"

The crowd that marched out of the tent looked like something Breughel would sketch after downing some absinthe, Costin's megaphone blasting chants as King hollered and the honor guard cycled through their war songs. Near the front a Nick Nolte lookalike named Fred Smart—a leader of VoteInSunshine, the group that challenged the Straw Poll's voting system—screamed himself purple. The march wound through the entire fairgrounds as lunch-munching Republicans gawked, obviously bemused. They smiled, and when they sighted a peace flag (an American flag with the stars replaced by a peace sign), they sneered.

"That's a weird flag," heckled a proud frat boy in a Team Romney shirt. "What country is that from? I don't think I know that country." He smirked and looked around for someone to high-five; seeing no one, he ambled away.

The march terminated at the entrance to the Hilton Coliseum where Mitt Romney's masses were starting to flow in for his speech. Here were the fruits of Romney's multi-million dollar Straw Poll campaign: Dozens of buses had brought in thousands of eldery voters, beer-bellied Korea vets and bird-like old ladies grabbing onto volunteers' biceps to keep their balance. Joined by healthy newlyweds and Norman Rockwell-painted Republican couples, they tried to duck the din of the Ron Paul Mosh. The Paul mobs sang and hooted and shook their signs and yelled out at the Romney voters.

"For your children!" one of them pleaded of a couple walking in with a baby carriage. "Think about your children! Your babies!"

The mosh moshed on for a half hour, diverting the traffic of Romney, Brownback and Tancredo golf carts, until the crowd was allowed into the Hilton auditorium. The chairs in front of the main stage were emptied out and refilled every time one speaker stopped and another prepped for his big event. The friendless Jon Cox gave his stemwinder to rows and rows of empty seats as the Paul mobs clamored outside. When they were let in, Tremblay and Weins led the way, blasting "Yankee Doodle Dandy," echoing like crazy—when the whole mob arrived they drowned out moderator Laura Ingraham.

"Do you want to hear the introduction?" she said. But she wasn't confrontational the way mainstream Republicans sometimes are with the Paul voters who work the phones into their radio shows. Ingraham plugged Paul's legislation to put a bounty on Osama bin Laden and let bounty hunters do the rest. "Who wants to take up Ron Paul's offer and hunt down Osama bin Laden?"

There's a weird sort of respect for the Paulites in some corners of the event. One brand of thinking was that Paul's support was all online vapor, strange mutants from the Internet who couldn't muster a crowd. But Paul's crowd is enormous.

"That's the only story so far," one reporter told me during the dull-ish candidate speeches. "The presence of the Ron Paul people."

And then he asked me: "Have you met any of them from Iowa?"

And that is the reason Paul's people were able to generate so much light and heat and yet enter the poll with such pessimism. Volunteer after volunteer was from outside Iowa. And only Iowans could cast a vote in the poll. Campaign staff estimated that only half of the people milling around their tent were eligible voters and that 1000 votes would be a decent haul. Not winning, but decent.

Some of the campaign's vote-card success was the work of grassroots supporters. As campaign staff handed out the 800 tickets they had purchased—some already reserved for voters, some picked up on the stop—Internet supporters like Jeremie Bellenir handed out their own tickets. Bellenir was part of the "Adopt an Iowan" plot launched on the web, where Paul fans earmarked thousands of bucks in donations to pay for Straw Poll votes. But in the late afternoon, with voting 80, 90 minutes away from closing, Bellenir still had tickets to give away. There hadn't been enough work done connecting the tickets with sure-thing voters.

At four o'clock some Paul volunteers came up with a solution, the doomed nature of which epitomized their problems. Rumors were swirling about a new fleet of buses arriving in the parking lot. Paul people were going to go and try to practice emergency baptisms as new voters shuttled in. The candidate himself would make a speech if the evangelists could bring them down to the tent.

It was a stillborn effort. The busses were actually there to pick up Romney's legions, fresh from voting, tuckered out, and ready to plan their next rounds of Florida condo-hunting. The Paul people mosied back, dejected, as the rest of the campaigns packed up their white tents, giant fans, and bouncy castles. Some of them walked around with signs and some of them stretched their scorched bodies in the shade.

Richard Green of U.S. Christians for Truth lounged in one chair chatting with Paul people on the way out of the parking lots. Earlier in the day he'd handed out a flier from his mystery-cloaked, possibly-phony group (no address, no phone number) savaging the "Mormon cult values" of Mitt Romney and warning Republicans not to vote for any candidate who'd had multiple marriages or an affair. Only if the party nominates a candidate who's remained faithful to his first wife (and doesn't wear "special" underwear) can they attack the Clintons from the high moral ground. Green voted for Paul.

"If Ron Paul is elected a lot of things will change in this country," he said. "But I hope [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee doesn't get knocked out today. I would have voted for him if I thought he needed it."

He didn't need to worry, and in any case the Paul people have gotten over the bus debacle. They prepped for one last victory: dominating the Hilton main hall. Hummer-sized "Hope for America" signs were hauled into the room and pasted on the far walls. Brownback and Huckabee fans had already crowded the front of the room but the Paul crowds dwarfed them, eventually making up half of the space. There was no support for Romney or the Straw Poll-boycotting Giuliani and McCain: It all looked a bit like the victory platforms at the 1980 Olympics.

There was nothing left to plan, or to forget to plan: The Paul people were going to savor this. During a 90-minute delay in the vote count, thanks to those electronic machines the Vote in Sunshine crowd were angsting about, they started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and some of the other campaigns' boosters joined in. Then the votes came in. John McCain scored barely 100 votes and got Wicked-Witch-is-Dead belly laughs. There was a huge cheer when Giuliani placed eighth and a bigger cheer when Tommy Thompson chimed in sixth. Thompson had promised to quit the race if he bombed that badly, and now there'll be three or four more minutes of TV-debate time for Dr. Paul.

And in fifth place: Ron Paul. The Paul crowd went wild. They overlooked the smaller cheers for Tancredo's fourth place finish and the loud cheers—from a smaller crowd than theirs—when Mike Huckabee won second place. Precious little excitement was left for when Romney won it all and his gleaming Bryl-creamed visage materialized on the giant screams. He was expected to win this the moment Rudy dropped out. The story of the day was Huckabee.

Some of the Paul people were disappointed—none of them were crushed. The truly happy supporters were the Vote in Sunshine guys, who clustered in the middle of the room in front of the camera risers and excitedly chatted about the strategizing ahead. I pulled Fred Smart aside to ask him if he was disappointed in a fifth place showing. "I think you can see that Ron Paul has the momentum," he said. He left and the rest of his group returned to buzzing about drivers' licenses that didn't scan, riggable voting machines, and mysterious computer delays.

That was in front of the cameras risers. Right behind them, a few steps away, the beaming Mike Huckabee had arrived into a five-man deep reporter scrum. He smiled into an array of cameras, boom mics and tiny Olympus recorders. "For all intents and purposes, we won the Straw Poll," he said, credibly. Meanwhile the fraud-watchers, all of them Ron Paul voters, were bragging about how they'd stood out in the sun verifying votes.

There wasn't a better symbol of how the Paul campaign fell short in Ames. An anti-war Republican campaign was never going to win the straw poll outright. Measure the applause Paul got for saying "I stand for liberty, the Constitution, and peace" against what Tom Tancredo got for saying his foreign policy is "We win, you lose." One sounded like a big outdoor bar welcoming the J. Geils Band. The other sounded like U2 at Madison Square Garden.

Still, there were more than 1,300 Iowans who could potentially back Paul. This is a state with zero tradition of third-party voting (it gave 3,000 votes to Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik in 2004). Eleven years ago the state would have given its caucus to Pat Buchanan if a few thousand Alan Keyes diehards had switched their votes to Pitchfork Pat.

The Paul Straw Poll efforts couldn't match any of that, resembling at times some of Howard Dean's botched gambits in the 2004 Iowa Caucus, when clueless undergraduate volunteers stood out in the cold and waved signs for an event for which people didn't even drive to polling places.

But Paul's campaign isn't comparable to that because, unlike Dean's, it's not positioned to win a nomination. There are people who sign up for "the Revolution" fully aware they aren't electing a president. Paul's shifting focus onto social issues or his stabs at real ground organizing don't matter to these voters. They're looking for a social network and a traveling carnival, and some chances to wave the middle finger at reporters or the rest of the Republican Party.

This is counterproductive, it's silly, and it's easily laughed off by the leading Republican campaigns. It's also the most fun these people have had in years. That was obvious on Saturday. And it was also obvious that unless the Paul campaign is headed for a few more headlines than a flameout, the shambolic synergy of the grassroots and the official campaign is going to have to coalesce into something serious.

That was crystal clear after the auditorium emptied out and the winning candidates spoke to the media. In front of his campaign bus and flanked by his wife and sons, Mitt Romney gloated about the victory he'd more or less bought, and photographers snapped pictures for Sunday's front pages. A few steps away you could see a sign that had been hoisted by various Paul people then taped to a lamppost in front of his busy tent: "Ron Paul: 1st Place Winner in Every Debate Poll." It was broken in half and sitting next to a trash can.

David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.

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  1. Weigel was somewhere around Dubuque, on the edge of the Great Plains, when the drugs began to take hold…

  2. ….and the flying lizards, led by a shreiking Tommy Thompson, were in full pursuit.

  3. I think Reason should send Edward on the Ron Paul beat. He’s the only person capable of Telling It Like It Is!

  4. That was a great article. I watched Paul’s speech online and his WWEesque entrance and crowd support. It was thrilling but and powerful but i couldn’t help thinking it was not going to get it done. This straw poll is a sham anyways hopefully Paul made some noise.

  5. i didn’t proofread that last comment and i wrote it in the middle of a phone call. sorry for it’s utter grammer suckitude.

  6. Thank you Dave. That was the only account I’ve found regarding the strong, albeit largely out of state, support for RON PAUL in Ames.

    Thanks for including a passage regarding me and my peace flag. A couple of Tancredo supporters came up to me while I was marching with it and, I kid you not, actually asked me “where in the constitution it authorized what my flag stood for”.

  7. Unfortunately, you’re right that Paul’s supporters are generally contemptuous towards other Republicans. Some Paul supporters really campaign smart, but others are just plain kooks that are as happy saying “fuck you” to GOP insiders as they are with the idea of taking over the GOP.

    Any news on Ed Thompson running for President yet?

  8. FTA: The busses [sic] were actually there to pick up Romney’s legions, fresh from voting, tuckered out, and ready to plan their next rounds of Florida condo-hunting.

    Wow, politically AND financially stupid. What a great combination. I suppose they’ll want the rest of them to bail them out when they lose all their money in the ongoing Fla. real estate crash.

  9. BTW, this article brings it all home as to how ugly retail politics is. And we seem to be subjected to more and more of it. That would be a big benefit of limited government–getting these blow-dried assholes off of our TV screens for a few minutes.

  10. JasonC-

    Yeah, they should definitely send Edward on the Ron Paul beat, but they should send DONDEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! with him.

  11. ChrisO:

    No [sic] required

    Um. Guess I’ll go RTFA, now.

  12. Wait a minute, I didn’t realize that the “peace flag” was a defaced US flag. That’s not cool, Warren. Ay, big blunder there.

  13. True, Thoreau. Also, HeWhoWillNotBeNamedNorUseAppropriatePunctuation should tag along.

  14. …proud frat boy in a Team Romney shirt. “What country is that from? I don’t think I know that country.” He smirked and looked around for someone to high-five…

    Dude, my dad owns a dealership.

  15. Dude, my dad owns a dealership.

    Points for the Aqua Teen reference. Was that Patton Oswalt doing one of the voices?

  16. Good article. It demonstrates quite well the hard slog in front of the Paul campaign. Much more work will need to be done to harness the strength, but such efforts are hampered by campaign finance laws. The Paul campaign can’t direct anything too closely.

  17. I’ve been to the University of Iowa, but I’ve never been to Ames. When did it move?

  18. This was a fun story but it missed the most important mark.

    the revolution failed to herd angry cats into giving the GOP $35 per vote.

    We had Iowan’s there that refused to vote because they know this is a GOP fundraiser first and for-most. Fortunately you can vote in the caucus without donating to the chicken-hawks.

  19. yea, but wouldn’t it be nice if a there were a Libertarian in the race?

  20. I’ve been to the University of Iowa, but I’ve never been to Ames. When did it move?

    D’oh, I reminded myself like seven times not to screw that up and I did anyway. Fixed.

  21. Points for the Aqua Teen reference.

    Dave, what kind of points? Are they redeemable for any prizes? Because I can do ATHF references all day.

  22. 9% is better than 2%. This was not a win for Ron Paul, but it wasn’t a lose, either.

    The campaign is going to need more help from outside the Republican Party in order to have a ghost of a chance to win. Fortunately, I detect a lot of positive vibes for Paul from the hippie left. They just need to be recruited.


    A start.

  23. crimethink,
    It wasn’t a “defaced” American flag. It was a Peace flag, based on the American flag. Thus symbolizing that peace and patriotism belong together. Glad I could clear that up for you.

  24. A couple of Tancredo supporters came up to me while I was marching with it and, I kid you not, actually asked me “where in the constitution it authorized what my flag stood for”.

    A) The Constitution does not authorize me to do anything (a duh if you post on H&R a lot, but worth mentioning).

    B) I would have responded, “I don’t know, they just paid me a lot more for this than I was paid of the Romney shirt.”

  25. Warren,

    Then fly a peace flag (ie, a flag with just a peace symbol) alongside a US flag. Altering the US flag to promote your political viewpoint is pretty low, IMHO.

    What would you think if pro-lifers flew a flag with a fetus in the blue part, or feminists flew one with a Venus symbol, or NRA members altered it to include a rifle?

  26. crimethink,

    Sorry you don’t approve. I can’t agree with your view though. Nothing was “altered”. The design is actually quite prestigious with a long and glorious tradition.

  27. What would you think if pro-lifers flew a flag with a fetus in the blue part, or feminists flew one with a Venus symbol, or NRA members altered it to include a rifle?

    I’d want to know who made them so I could get a flag with the FSM in the blue part.

  28. What would you think if pro-lifers flew a flag with a fetus in the blue part, or feminists flew one with a Venus symbol, or NRA members altered it to include a rifle?

    I’d think, “Wow, look at those morons that think a flag is going to change someone’s mind.” And then I’d go back to not giving a shit what kind of flags people make.

  29. From crimethink’s description, I thought they’d taken an American Flag and smeared a peace sign onto it with their own feces or something.

    Just making something that looks kinda like an American flag isn’t defacing an American flag. I’m not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but the American flag has lots of five-pointed stars on it. Their flag doesn’t, so it’s not an American flag. Therefore, they can’t possibly have defaced an American flag.

    Oh, and for some reason I’m dying to see somebody make one with that sillouette of a naked chick that you see on mud flaps of 18-wheelers.

  30. lunchstealer,
    Close enough?

  31. During the war on the Phillipines, Mark Twain recommended a truth-telling US flag, with little skulls & crossbones replacing the stars.

  32. Twainist,

    50 state version hier

  33. Warren, huh. God I love a free market.

  34. Where does this flag fit into the is-it-proper-to-alter-or-not-alter-a-flag,-depending-on-your-opinion argument?

  35. What does the author have against the J. Geils Band

  36. I’d want to know who made them so I could get a flag with the FSM in the blue part.

    Sign me up, I would want all to know I was touched by His noodly appendage.

  37. King Harvest, since they’ve got an Adidas logo there, which is a french company, I don’t know.

  38. “He smirked and looked around for someone to high-five…”

    It must be nice to just make shit up and then attribute it to someone else’s unrealized thought pattern.

  39. Shouting down opponents?

    Waving defaced American “peace” flags?

    Are you sure this wasn’t the YearlyKos event you guys attended?

    Wierd. Voters run like scared children from scary campaigns, and candidates. And I was being kind not mentioning the 9/11 conspiracy theories and virulent anti-government and anti-Jewish rhetoric.

  40. Dave, yeah, Patton Oswalt does the voices for both of the frat aliens.

  41. “They’re looking for a social network and a traveling carnival, and some chances to wave the middle finger at reporters or the rest of the Republican Party.”

    Wrong. I am working for Paul to win the presidency. You watch.

  42. I’m a meetup volunteer in Boston…there are 218 of us…although I have only met 10 at the two events I’ve been too.

    That leads me to believe that about 25 of us have done anything besides internet related activies…the 5 most active appear to have done about 90% of the “work”. I’m not one of those 5.

    Anyway, out of all the people I’ve met it appears that less than 10% of us voted for Bush in the last election. Half of the people are too young or didn’t vote. About 35% of us probably voted libertarian. Most of us have always been for smaller government so it is natural that we would feel inclinded to give the GOP a big FU. Your right, I don’t care that much if we lose, I just want libertarian ideas to get spread.

    If the number of people in this country that get a praxeology reference increases by 10% I’d be thrilled.

    I grew up interested in politics well before I was of voting age. As I came to realize that nothing I did was going to change things and the most logical thing for me to do was not even participate, a part of me grew darker. I focus on my career and kids and don’t try to change many peoples minds. Now that a liberty oriented campaign is on the fringes of mainstream….it is a bit cathartic to give the FU to big government hypocrite republicans.

    “if you want smaller governemnt then here is your chance!!! otherwise just swear on this communist manifesto for me so we can get the creeping socialism over with you m****r f****r!”

  43. “They’re looking for a social network and a traveling carnival, and some chances to wave the middle finger at reporters or the rest of the Republican Party.”

    Wrong. I am working for Paul to win the presidency. You watch.

    But you’re not going to turn your nose up at a chance to wave a middle finger at reporters or the rest of the Republican party, are you? I mean, as long as you’re there.

  44. This was a fun article for those of us who couldn’t make it.

    I can admit David is right about several things. When I read aarticle this weekend that said romney’s supporters walked in orderly and that ron pauls stumbled in like crazed geurillas I got excited and relayed the info to my wife (a unlikely to vote libertarian) with glee…she cyncically commented that “you really like being a part of a team”…this wasn’t the enthusiastic answer I wanted but it was the truth…I’m pro choice and want open borders..two things ron paul is against….doesn’t matter, he is far superior to the other choices.

    I’m gonna keep campaigning.

  45. It must be nice to just make shit up and then attribute it to someone else’s unrealized thought pattern.

    Are you really that stupid, Nebby? I have this on tape – it’s around 3:26 in the video I blogged today. You can hear the Romney kid and see him make a lame gang sign. You can also see him standing alone. As I turned back to film the march he smiled smugly and then walked away.

    Go ahead and criticize my analysis, but don’t accuse me of making up a scene when I have video of it.

  46. Dave,

    Thanks again for the coverage. I sorry I didn’t recognize you as the cameraman, but I think every lens on campus was pointed at me somewhere along that march.

  47. If we ever get within spitting distance again, lets sit down over a hot dog and an icee

  48. But Paul’s campaign isn’t comparable to that because, unlike Dean’s, it’s not positioned to win a nomination.

    It’s not? Then whose campaign is? The pro-choice, anti-Second Amendment Rudy Giuliani? The pro-surge, pro-amnesty John McCain? The Massachusetts flip-flopper Mitt Romney? The tax-hiking, pro-amnesty Mike Huckabee? The fish-or-cut-bait lobbyist Fred Thompson?

    Ron Paul is more conservative across the board than any of the front runners. He’s on the winning side of the Iraq war debate in the general election. The country is facing an unprecedented financial crisis and teetering on the brink of tyranny, and he’s the only candidate offering anything close to real change on either front.

    He has more volunteers nationwide than all of the other candidates combined on Meetup.com, and more grassroots enthusiasm than any candidate that anyone can remember, ever.

    Iowa was a wake-up call for the campaign to start for real, and the clock is ticking to January, but I’m certainly not counting him out.

  49. crimethink | August 13, 2007, 2:36pm | #


    Then fly a peace flag (ie, a flag with just a peace symbol) alongside a US flag. Altering the US flag to promote your political viewpoint is pretty low, IMHO.

    What would you think if pro-lifers flew a flag with a fetus in the blue part, or feminists flew one with a Venus symbol, or NRA members altered it to include a rifle?

    I can’t speak for Warren, but I’d think, “Hey, those guys are exercising a constitutionally protected right. Totally awesome!”

  50. Well, someone who walks up to Ron Paul and calls him a traitor because he opposes the war is also exercising a constitutional right. That doesn’t mean you have to think it’s awesome.

    In any case, the main problem is that you’re not taking the audience into account. I was miffed by the idea, and I’m against the war myself; so I can imagine what deep red Iowa Republicans thought of it. Not a good way to win hearts and minds…

  51. Well you know, carrying a peace flag at the Republican Straw Poll, is pissing in the punch bowl as Weigel so elegantly put it. I wanted to irritate the establishment. I’m for peace, I’m for Paul and I’m in your house. There were no hearts and minds to be won, only other lovers of liberty to inspire.

    But I don’t think I offended anybody because of the flags similarity to the national ensign. I really think you’re out of touch crimethink.

  52. What a great article. It’s rare to read something over 200 words that isn’t a complete propaganda for one candidate or interest. Well done!

  53. I heard mitt had gay sex back in the 80’s.

  54. At Ames, 31% voted for a Mormon, and 47% voted for a Creationist (Huckabeem, Tancredo, Brownback), meaning 78% voted for a religious extremist or irrationalist of some sort.

    You think thats typical of the USA? I think not. Iowa Republicans are the tipping point when measuring the extreme social conservative vote, anyone who believes in science & reason in Iowa long ago departed to the Iowa Democratic Party.

    But no matter. Ron Paul did wonderful finding 1300 Iowans who wanted to support science, reason and the US Constitution and the wonderfully decent man who is this unusual Republican messenger of peace & liberty.

    If Ron Paul can do 9% in a place where a near majority of Republican “faithful” are willing to support white men who believe the world was made 6,000 years ago, imagine what Ron Paul could do in New Hampshire or Nevada or California with all voters (Independents, Republicans, Ron Paul Democrats) able to vote for him, and for no money down.

    The first four candidates are religious freaks, lets face it. Paul the rationalist did pretty damn well considering the state and the Republican Party.

  55. Hey Marc,
    Nice to see you. Not many Canadians would take such an interest in US primary politics.

    How’s that extradition thing going?

  56. I don’t think Paul is necessarily a “science” candidate, and I say that as a supporter.

    I think the best that can be said is that he wants the state to be so emasculated that it isn’t really relevant to questions of science or faith.

  57. Excellent article! Do you think the Paul campaign realizes the problem? Do you think they have the will and the talent to get the grassroots effort under control?

  58. Interesting comment above: “I’m for Paul and I’m in your house.”

    How telling. Ron Paul’s minnions are largely disaffected liberal Democrats (socially and militarily, anyway) and Libertarian Party folks and they are flooding into the GOP like Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande.

    Like them, they are aliens in the party, and are hell-bent on foisting their extremist, anarchist agenda onto it.

    Message from the True GOP: It won’t work.

    The “Peace Democrats” sneaking into the GOP will be about as successful as they were in 1864 trying to undermine the Civil War.

    And Ron Paul isn’t even as good as McClellan.

  59. James,

    The neocons co-opted the True GOP easily enough, didn’t they?

    If you had told a knowledgeable person in 1995 that in less than a decade a Republican-controlled executive and legislative branch would be responsible for the largest domestic spending increases since LBJ and the biggest nation-building catastrophe in the history of the world, they’d think you were batshit insane. Sadly, they’d be wrong.

    This new welfare-warfare predilection of the GOP is just a speed bump in the history of a party whose core tradition is one of respect for individual liberty. Unfortunately, it looks like there’s no hope for 2008, since the Bushite lemmings are going to take all of us over the edge of the cliff. This sort goeth not out but by prayer and fasting, but it will goeth out.

  60. I’m a life long Republican and I can’t believe what Bush has done to my party. Hugh budget deficits,(Bush hasn’t vetoed 1 spending bill) a nation building war that has no sign of ending and then there’s the Patriot Act. This isn’t Goldwater or Reagan’s party.
    Ron Paul is far from perfect but at least he’d stop the craziness.

  61. Speaking of desecrating American flags, I’m often quite moved when I pass motorists with tattered flags waving from their cars, or sun-bleached flag stickers on the rear window.

    What a truly poignant protest against our battered, faded American democracy.

    That is what they’re going for, right?

  62. er, should have used the new handle.

    (note to joe: I’m not R C Dean)

  63. Hey, Crimethink, you’re right. The neocons have ruined the party. But anarchists and conspiracy theorists can’t save it.

    There are several good “diamonds in the rough” in the race for president, and one batshit crazy nutball who has a band of followers as insane as he is.

  64. Nice job Dave! I remember you asking me about Ron’s 5th place finish and you reported my response accurately which says a lot. I also appreciate your attention to my ‘purple face’ during the chanting-moshing. Great fun for everyone – witnessing and chanting.

    The tenor and tone of the chanting-moshing was very positive and fun overall. I also know this is what turns the insides of the paid Paul staffers nuts – your writing about them as dressed in slacks and suits while sweating buckets was a real hoot.

    You really did a nice job capturing the essence of the energy and spirit that was received, shared and celebrated in Ames. I really don’t know how to describe this “Ron Paul Effect” – I have personally never been politically active so this is all really very new to me.

    If you want to blame one person for coming up with that horrendous “Who you gonna call?….Ron Paul!” chant I plead guilty!

    Hey, remember this…the “official” – ie. certified – 2007 Iowa Straw Poll Vote has yet to be counted. The Iowa GOP and the State Of Iowa election auditor have yet to examine or count the paper ballots. Now that’s a story for you to write about!

    Thanks again Dave!

    Peace and God Bless,


  65. If you want to blame one person for coming up with that horrendous “Who you gonna call?….Ron Paul!” chant I plead guilty!

    Yeah, that was horrendous, but all is forgiven. By the time we got to the Coliseum you found the groove.

    2nd Amendment!
    Let em hear you!
    To the sky!

    good times, noodle salad.

  66. Or how about this chant…

    Pork spender!
    Overthrow the government!
    Libertarian interloper!
    Hippie Peace Actvist!
    Conspiracy theorist!
    Michael Moore impersonator!
    Loud and obnoxious followers!
    To the Moon with the Leftist Moonbats!

  67. Heh, heh. James dislikes Ron Paul. Heh, heh, heh. He makes witty remarks disparaging him. Ho, ho.

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