By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, December 23, 1011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is leading the polls in Iowa, and local supporters who attended a question-and-answer session with the Texas congressman Tuesday at the Galley Hatch restaurant believe he is gaining momentum in New Hampshire.
"I think in New Hampshire he really seems to be picking up steam," said Jesse Mclaughlin of Hampton Falls. "The biggest reason I'm a supporter of Ron Paul is because of his principles. He has lived up to everything he has ever said. He follows the Constitution unlike any other person in government and certainly unlike anyone who is running for president."
Paul met with roughly two dozen supporters at the Galley Hatch prior to a Town Hall-style meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today, Dec. 20, at Exeter Town Hall.
On the campaign trail, Paul said, his views about smaller government are starting to resonate with voters. But his message is not new.
"I've been talking about a lot of this stuff for decades," Paul said.
Paul said he got involved in the government in the 1970s because he felt government was getting too big. Paul said the current financial crisis will get worse if the federal government doesn't get a handle on its deficit and the status quo remains in Congress.
"I think the problem is too much spending," Paul said. "If any one of us got in trouble with too much debt, we would have to cut back and work hard to pay off the debt."
In October, Paul unveiled a plan to reduce the federal budget in his first year as president by $1 trillion. The plan calls for eliminating the federal Education, Commerce, Energy, Interior and Housing and Urban Development departments. The plan also calls for cutting taxes and eliminating all foreign aid.
"I think that is what is necessary to get back in to sound financing again," Paul said.
Paul has come under criticism by political pundits for his perceived "isolationist" attitude and his plan to eliminate foreign aid.
On Tuesday, he defended his position.
"We are spending a trillion dollars overseas, and I don't think we are any safer for it," Paul said. "I think we are in greater danger, and it undermines our national defense by doing all these things."
Paul pointed to Egypt as a prime example why foreign aid doesn't work.
"For 40 years, we gave money to Egypt so they would behave themselves," Paul said. "It brought on a dictator that people didn't like and they threw him out. Now radicals have taken over, we lost billions of dollars, and now we have an unfriendly government."
Paul said the biggest threat is not overseas.
"Our personal liberties are most threatened here at home," Paul said. "No one is going to invade us or undermine our freedom. But our government is always undermining our freedom, personal privacy and doing things like taking away rights to property and over taxation. The problems (we face) are many but the solutions are not that difficult and they can be found in our Constitution."
According to a recent CNN poll, Paul took over the lead in Iowa with 23 percent of the voters' support, an increase of 5 percentage points over the past weeks.
According to the new CNN survey, Paul is in third place in New Hampshire at 14 percent, trailing front-runner Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
"I support him because of his support for the Constitution," said Nicole Benson, a Newmarket resident. "To me, it just comes back to that issue, rights for all and civil liberties."
Walter Nordstrom, of North Hampton, said he attended because a friend is a big supporter of Paul.
He is still undecided.
"I think if whoever wins in the Republican race can go on and win over the Democrat, Obama, it would be better for the country," Nordstrom said.