Despite ever decreasing odds of winning the Republican presidential nomination, Ron Paul continues to campaign with vigor. He spent Wednesday evening delivering his standard stump speech to a crowd of over 2,000 people inside the Keaney Gymnasium at the University of Rhode Island. The mostly young crowd cheered often, particularly when Paul decried runaway entitlement spending, American foreign policy, and, of course, the Federal Reserve.
Paul's popularity with young voters was overwhelming in early primary states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, but since then other candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum caught up to him. It is difficult to determine why Paul's support remained mostly unchanged while others gained. Paul's youth support began in 2008, but was ultimately overshadowed by then candidate Barack Obama's strong youth support. Obama's campaign team is investing heavily in young people again in his bid for reelection.
Many of the young people I spoke to at URI told me that they were attracted to Paul's libertarian ideas, particularly on economics, but also stayed with him because of his consistency as a politician.
"People are tired of being slaves to the government, they are tired of being shoved off to war, they are tired of paying taxes, they are tired of the system," said Tabor Barranti, 22, a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University.
Barranti, wearing a half-dozen buttons with various libertarian messages, noted Paul may not be the greatest speaker but said his "substance" and depth of knowledge make up for it.
"(Obama) is charismatic but he has no substance. Ron Paul has more substance than all of the candidates combined," she said.
The main organizer of the event and head of Youth for Ron Paul at URI, Emmanuel Cumplido, said that Paul resonates with young people because "he's right."
"If you're a deep thinker, you're going to honestly look at the candidates and conclude that Paul's political philosophy is miles above the rest," said Cumplido, 22, a philosophy major.
Other members of URI's Youth for Ron Paul group said they supported Paul for economic reasons.
"The current generation, they're not going to have to pay that debt to China. Eventually someone's going to have to pay those bills and that's not the current generation, that's my generation and my children's generation, and that's a real problem," said Nate Robertson, 23, a political science major at URI.
Natasha Nemeth, a chemistry major, said she was drawn to Paul for similar reasons but cited his "spotless record of consistency" as being the biggest reason she backs him.
One of the main schools of thought on Paul's strong youth support is that it is bred out of his foreign policy views. This may have been true in 2008 when the wars were still fresh in everybody's mind but I am not so sure that is the case now, particularly with the nominal end of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The people I spoke to today at URI all seemed to echo their concerns about the economy and long term solvency of the United States. Few mentioned their thoughts on American foreign policy despite Paul's frequent mentions of it during his rally.