Elko, Nev. – Ron Paul delivered his typical stump speech during his only northern Nevada appearance last night before a crowd of over 300 inside the Elko Indian Colony Gymnasium. While touching on subjects like the Federal Reserve, eliminating the income tax, slashing the federal budget, restoring civil liberties, and scaling back America's intervention in foreign affairs, Paul often sounded, and appeared, like a professor giving a Libertarianism 101 lecture. The crowd did not treat it as a lecture, though, and frequently cheered and applauded. At one point late in the speech the crowd even broke into a "President Paul!" chant.
"Believe me, if you defer to the government and think that they should tell you how to run your life and how you should spend your money, then, I'll tell you what, we're not going to get over this. It should be in a free society, it should be the people's decision on how they run their life and how they spend their money," said Paul.
The crowd was very favorable to Paul but a series of interviews conducted before the speech indicated that there were several undecided voters in the gymnasium.
"I am not sure about Ron Paul and some of his stances. Particularly the border, how he would deal with illegal aliens," said William Graunke, 66, a retired civil engineer who is leaning towards Romney, but appreciates the fact that Paul served in the military.
Paul did not touch on any local issues during his speech here, instead focusing on larger national issues. This played well with Tyler Cummings, a local gold miner. "The Federal Resreve is able to print money without any accountability to anyone, [that] is kind of disturbing to me," said Cummings, 24. "I'd like to see the Federal Reserve audited."
After Paul finished speaking he signed some autographs and spoke to the handful of reporters there. The press gaggle was local except for me and former Reason writer Dave Weigel. A boisterous group of Idaho voters that traveled here to see Paul shouted to him frequently while he answered questions.
I asked Paul two questions, both local. One was about his thoughts on the controversial Travel Management Plan for the Humboldt/Toiyabe National Forest. This was a subject that came up frequently during my interviews with Paul supporters here. Paul could not answer specifically about the plan for the forrest but he said he thinks the state should make the decision, not the US Forest Service. "I don't want the federal government dictating to the state of Nevada. Period," he said.
The other local question I asked him was if he would strip funding for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual event currently going on in Elko that became a national story after Harry Reid referenced it on the floor of the Senate early last year. The event recieves a very small amount of federal funding but its supporters contend it never would have got off the ground almost 30 years ago without federal start up cash.
When I described it to Paul he said it was not something that he would be in support of but that it was minor. "Some of these programs that might be small in amounts and seem to be wonderful they don't motivate me to run for congress or president. I'm motiviated to stop hundreds of billions of overseas spending," he said.
"These are minor programs but philosophically, no, I would not support it," he said.