Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

If I told you about a presidential candidate who wants to lower taxes, outlaw abortion, you'd probably guess I was talking about a super conservative.

But what about a candidate who wants to overturn the Patriot Act and get U.S. troops out of Iraq? Liberal, right? Well, how about a candidate who wants to abolish the Department of Education, the Federal Reserve, and end income tax altogether? You'd probably guess this person was polling around zero percent at this point, right? Well, it turns out all these policies are advocated by one candidate, and he is polling above zero and has quite the buzz on the Internet.

In fact, when Republican Ron Paul held a fundraiser in honor of Guy Fawkes Day - which commemorates a plot to blow up the British Parliament, by the way - he set the single-day Republican fundraising mark for this campaign - more than $4 million. Now, he might not quite be up there with Rudy and Mitt, but when it comes to fundraising and Internet activity, Dr. Ron Paul is no slouch.

Here's a taste of one of his campaign ads.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Representative RON PAUL (Republican, Texas): I'm Ron Paul, and I'm the only presidential candidate who'll bring our troops home from Iraq immediately and stop wasteful government spending. Now here's something else I care about and I hope you do, too. The war on terror and the growth of big government have had a dangerous side effect - the loss of privacy rights for the American people. Both parties have put their pet schemes ahead of our rights. Not me; as president, I won't stand for it.

STEWART: Someone who spent some time on the road with Ron Paul is Tucker Carlson, host of MSNBC's show "Tucker," which airs Monday through Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern. Hi, Tucker.

Mr. TUCKER CARLSON (Host, "Tucker"): Hey, Alison.

STEWART: So he's getting a lot attention for being a Republican who opposes the war. But you've been out on the road, what other points and positions are getting traction from Ron Paul supporters?

Mr. TUCKER: Sound money - the gold standard.

STEWART: Really?

Mr. TUCKER: Fear of the Federal Reserve. It sounds unlikely. In fact, it is unlikely. In fact, I couldn't believe it until I saw it myself. The single biggest applause line in the Ron Paul speeches I saw was the Constitution does not provide for a Central Bank - which sounds like a parody. If you are writing the single least inspiring line in a speech, it might be the Constitution does not provide for a Central Bank. Because first, what does it even mean? Most people don't know what the Fed is. But Ron Paul supporters do, and they're upset about it. They believe, bottom line, that our currency isn't backed by anything. It's, of course, backed by faith in the federal government. But if you don't have faith in the federal government, it begins to look like monopoly money and that's very upsetting to people. So that is an issue that has risen that I wasn't aware of until I went out on the road. And Ron Paul supporters -I haven't seen an actual survey in this - but have got to be the best educated people - and I'm not saying I agree with everything they believe - but all around, the best educated group following a candidate I've ever seen.

STEWART: So describe the crowd for us - a Ron Paul crowd.

Mr. TUCKER: The Ron Paul crowd is a cross-section of people from the left and the right, some kind of traditional Ayn Rand fans, maybe some, you know, John…

STEWART: Clutching their "Fountain Heads."

Mr. TUCKER: That's right. So maybe some John Birchers on the left, some, you know, peace-type people, people who might be voting for Dennis Kucinich otherwise. There are some, probably, 9/11 conspiracists. And that's kind of the cliché about Ron Paul, you know, his followers are crazy, they believe the government brought down the World Trade Centers and all that business. But for the most part, I found Ron Paul supporters pretty normal and normal-looking. People who read a lot, who get maybe most of their news from outside the mainstream media, the MSM as it's called. They got a lot of their information online, from alternative news sources, but who aren't crazy, you know? I - the average Ron Paul supporter, I would say, is, you know, a high school history teacher with a real interest in civics and an active life of the mind who decided, you know, I'm going to think outside the normal strictures of American politics and wound up with Ron Paul.

STEWART: Now, are they on board with some of his more extreme positions or do they all seem to find one position that really sings to them?

Mr. TUCKER: Well, see, that's the beauty of Ron Paul, is he's one of those candidates - he's, of course, a fashionable candidate now, so he's one of those candidates of whom you can say, you know, he says a lot of sensible things; I kind of agree with Ron Paul. But if you stand back and think about what Ron Paul is saying, he is the most radical candidate to run in a long, long time, maybe since Len Ruffolani(ph) last ran. Ron Paul really doesn't think the government should be in charge of your life in any way. He thinks every person ought to be free from government surveillance. But the flipside of that is he thinks every person ought to be responsible for him or herself which means, basically, no government-sponsored safety net - which is pretty much the opposite of the basic assumption most Americans take to politics. Most Americans essentially think, you know, in the end, if it really falls apart, the government will take care of me. Ron Paul doesn't buy that. And that's a really big step for most people, you know, under the age of 80 who've grown up, you know, since Roosevelt, since FDR. I don't think all Ron Paul supporters have really thought that through, and I think if some of them thought that through, they would not still be on Ron Paul's side.

STEWART: You mention that he is the fashionable candidate right now.

Mr. TUCKER: Yeah.

STEWART: He's named GQ - one of GQ magazine's men of the year. Now, is he aware of all this hype surrounding him?

Mr. TUCKER: He said to me as we drove to Pahrump, Nevada from Las Vegas last week - in his minivan eating brownies that he had received from a supporter - Ron Paul eats food supporters give him, which tells you what kind of guy he is - and I mean that as a complement, very laid back. He said to me, you know, I have really no idea why these people are so interested in me. I don't think I'm a very charismatic person. I'm not that excited by me. I don't think of myself as a big deal. I don't even really like running for president and didn't really want to. He is - and I can say this with all sincerity - the most real, least phony candidate I've ever covered in an adult lifetime of following candidates around. The guy - completely without pretense, and a man who is a libertarian really to his soul. I mean, to the extent that he has a lot of trouble - and I watch this again and again - even telling his staff what to do on basic questions like, should we turn the heat up in the minivan? Or is it too bright in the airline cabin, you know what I mean?

STEWART: Right.

Mr. TUCKER: He just instinctively rebels against the idea of telling other people what to do. He's also totally committed to your right to do whatever you want to do. So for instance, you know, he can go on for half an hour about your right to smoke pot, you know. if you want to, if you think it helps your glaucoma or for any other reason. You're an adult; you get to make those choices. So I said to Ron Paul after he's getting pretty exercised about this, you know, do you get high a lot? Do you smoke a lot of pot? And he looked at me like I was a space alien. He said, I've never even seen marijuana. I mean, of course not. Of course, I don't smoke pot. No, I'm a physician. That's bad for you, but I support your right to do it. And he means it. So he is living out his beliefs. I mean, you may find his beliefs repugnant but they're heartfelt; he is not a demagogue.

STEWART: All right, Tucker, you got to understand this as you have 45 seconds left to answer this question. Where is all the leftover campaign cash going to go if he doesn't get the nomination?

Mr. TUCKER: I have no idea. I don't…

STEWART: Has he even thought about that?

Mr. TUCKER: They are not spending it on parties and transportation. No, you know, I have the faintest idea. He's got a fundraiser on December 16th -outside groups are doing it for him; he's going to raise millions and millions and millions. I haven't the faintest idea, but I don't he'll account for it.

STEWART: That's the big question to me. They're raising all this money for what?

Mr. TUCKER: And he's got nothing to do with it. By the way, these aren't fundraisers he is holding. These are legitimately spontaneous fundraising events held online. It's unbelievable.

STEWART: All right. Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker" on MSNBC at six o'clock Eastern Time.

Hey, thanks for sharing your reporting, Tucker.

Mr. TUCKER: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: You're a pal for coming on.

Mr. TUCKER: Thank you.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.