There's something about Ron Paul that stirs passion among his supporters and consistently draws thousands to hear him speak.
With just days to go before Wisconsin's April 3 Republican presidential primary, about 2,500 enthusiastic fans turned out to hear candidate Paul Thursday night at the Memorial Union Terrace. Students dominated the crowd, but families with small children and men in cowboy hats were also there. Moving about the cramped Terrace, the smell of marijuana was faintly discernable.
Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas, has authored several bills over the years to decriminalize pot and said Tuesday night that he would end the "useless" Drug War if elected to office. He also favors limited government and strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution. Pocket-sized copies of the Constitution were just as prevalent atop tables at the terrace as were pitchers of beer.
According to Paul's campaign bio, the Congressman never votes for legislation unless the proposal is "expressly authorized by the Constitution."
Paul's Republican opponents have condemned his campaign talking points to end the Federal Reserve and cut government spending by $1 trillion.
Paul's message that he would bring a "new ideology" to the White House resonated with the crowd. He told them they were "inheriting a mess" from two undeclared wars and that the issue of mounting student debt has been largely ignored.
At times, the candidate was drowned out to mass chants of "President Paul!" and "End the Fed!" Paul said he was overjoyed to witness so much enthusiasm for the "cause of liberty."
Paul said most of the bureaucrats and career politicians he has met are not smart enough to know how to spend their constituents' money. He also said they should not be trying to micromanage citizens' lives.
"In a free society, you ought to decide what goes into your body," he said.
This idea of individual liberty resonated with student Thomas Perry.
"Government tries to take a cookie cutter to make big ideas one size fits all," he said. "We need someone to fight the status quo."
Dennis Hasenfang, who traveled from Waterford to hear Paul speak, said he supported Paul because he was not part of the usual "us versus them" party dichotomy.
He said even if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were the eventual nominee, he would vote for Paul as a write-in candidate.