Ron Paul Backers Still Working, Just Not For Romney
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Early on in the election cycle, some voters were fired up about a candidate we haven't heard a lot from since the Republican primary. That's Ron Paul. The Texas congressman ran for the GOP nomination with a strong libertarian platform. He has not endorsed Mitt Romney. And in some places, including Iowa, his supporters are still involved but not on behalf of Romney. As we hear from Sarah McCammon of Iowa Public Radio, they're keeping their focus close to home.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: It's not every day you run across a couple of grown men dressed as the Founding Fathers, but Liberty Fest isn't every day, either. It's a cool, fall evening, in Hampton, a town of a few thousand residents in northern Iowa. And several dozen people, including lots of young families, have gathered near the town square for this event, billed as a celebration of the Constitution. Like most people here, Clayton Black supported Ron Paul for president in the Iowa caucuses.
CLAYTON BLACK: We're spending way too much time thinking about who's going to be our next president when we should be concentrating on who's going to be our next mayor or councilman or supervisor.
MCCAMMON: Black is in his early 60s and runs a bakery in another small town. He came to Liberty Fest dressed as a Revolutionary War-era militiaman.
BLACK: We get good people locally, and that's going to grow out.
MCCAMMON: People like Dave Edwards, who's running for the Iowa State Senate from Des Moines on a platform focused primarily on lower taxes. Edwards says he feels out of place in both parties, although he's running as a Republican.
DAVE EDWARDS: I'm fed up. I don't think either party is really representing the people. I'm concerned about my future and my children's future and your children's future. So I got off the porch and jumped in the race.
MCCAMMON: The 49-year-old homeschooling father of seven describes himself as a union laborer for the Des Moines Public Schools. That union has endorsed the Democratic incumbent. Much of Edwards' support comes from the people in the liberty movement who, like him, have backed Ron Paul. Adil Khan is the 24-year-old interim executive director of the loosely organized Liberty Iowa PAC. He says the focus now is on issues that matter in their own backyards.
ADIL KHAN: Red light cameras, you know, being able to have pushback against the federal government, getting fluoridation out of water. There's a lot of local issues out there. And, you know, we want to be able to bring people to awareness that, you know, the state is where we want our government. It's where you can look out the back window, and you can see exactly where your money is going and keep them in check.
MCCAMMON: Similar organizations have formed in Texas, Maine and North and South Dakota. The groups and their candidates are almost entirely Republican. But their loyalty may not extend to the top of the ticket.
JOE CORBIN: Presidential race, yeah.
MCCAMMON: That's Joe Corbin, a 32-year-old electrician and a liberty candidate running as a Republican for the Iowa House. Corbin says he's not a fan of Obama or Romney.
CORBIN: I can't bring myself to vote for somebody who I don't agree with their principles, someone whose biggest competition is themselves from 10 years ago.
MCCAMMON: So he's thinking about writing in Ron Paul or maybe voting for libertarian Gary Johnson. State Senate candidate Dave Edwards isn't crazy about his party's nominee, either.
EDWARDS: I see Mr. Romney step up to the microphone, and I wonder how is he supposed to represent me? We're from completely different backgrounds. I'm a blue-collar worker. He's always come from wealth. So really, I don't relate to that at all and wonder how he's going to relate to me.
MCCAMMON: That could be a bad sign for Romney, but party officials say they're not worried about the liberty movement, even though Paul supporters overwhelmingly dominated Iowa's delegation to the national convention this summer. Megan Stiles is a spokeswoman for the Iowa GOP. Like her boss, party chairman A.J. Spiker, she's also a former Ron Paul campaign staffer.
MEGAN STILES: We're always looking for, you know, new candidates in tough districts to run, and I think that the liberty movement, so to speak, has been positive for the party.
MCCAMMON: But members of the liberty movement may find themselves unwelcome in the Republican Party if they hurt Mitt Romney's chances of winning the state and a close election. For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon in Des Moines.
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