Thousands rally for Ron Paulby Toni Randolph, Minnesota Public Radio
The last major party presidential candidate to visit Minnesota before Tuesday's caucuses was Republican Ron Paul. More that 4,000 people turned out to see him at a rally Monday night at the University of Minnesota.
Minneapolis — The crowd was excited well before Ron Paul took the stage at Northrup Auditorium. They carried placards and chanted their candidate's name while waiting for him to appear.
And when he did, the more than 4,000 people who packed the hall jumped to their feet, screaming, clapping and whistling, giving him a long standing ovation.
"Thank you. That's wonderful," Paul said. "The media keeps asking me, why did I come to Minneapolis. Now we know."
Ron Paul spoke for more than 45 minutes. He called for withdrawing U.S. troops from the Middle East and other countries such as Korea. He delivered his message of liberty and freedom. But he said freedom has a price that the United States is now paying.
"Our currency is under attack, our good jobs have gone overseas, we have an empire we can't afford and we have to do something about it. That means that we have to change our ways," said Paul. "Fortunately for us, we have a very good guide. We have a guideline and that is, what we need to do is follow the Constitution."
It's that message that appeals to many Ron Paul supporters, like Andrew Sheppard, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.
"I like that he's consistent. He hasn't changed his views in his 20 years in Congress," said Shepard. "He always votes on the side of the Constitution, even if he's the only one."
Ron Paul, a 10-term congressman from Texas, has sparked some voters to get more involved in the election process than they've ever been.
Elizabeth Suihkonen of White Bear Lake says she's going to the caucuses. She says she's applied to be an election judge and hopes to become a delegate.
"I'm really excited. It's my first time doing anything like this. But I believe in Ron Paul so much, I decided to go for it," said Suihkonen. "I've never cared about voting. I think I voted for Jesse Ventura, which is horrible, but I've never cared about it. Now I'm in my mid-30s and I think it's time to take back America and be part of it."
Ron Paul is a dark horse candidate for the Republican nomination. While he raised about $20 million in the last three months of 2007, a Minnesota Public Radio poll shows him far behind two of his GOP rivals, John McCain and Mitt Romney, with support from 5 percent of Minnesota voters.
But his supporters don't seem to be fazed. Allison Lesch, 35, of St. Paul is a precinct leader for today's caucuses. She says this is the first campaign that's motivated her to get involved.
Even though Ron Paul's poll numbers are low, Lesch says she won't consider supporting another candidate because she believes Paul will be the Republican nominee.
"I think that we've done a really good job for people to become delegates. We've done a really good job of getting the word out," said Lesch. "I think it's the media that doesn't let people know he has made it this far. And he has done so much better than they even thought he would to begin with, and the people they thought would overrun him have dropped out."
Paul's visit to Minneapolis capped a busy weekend, which saw campaign events featuring Republican Mitt Romney, and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.