Ron Paul speaks to supporters in Manchester, N.H., after finishing second… (Andrew Burton / Getty Images )
Reporting from Manchester, NH — Shortly before Ron Paul took the stage at his boisterous party here, a woman who would only identify herself as a founder of New Hampshire’s tea party stood before an oversized TV broadcasting the victory speech of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“Oh, look at him. Mr. Fake,” she said, gazing at Romney. “He looks SO happy.”
That was one of the few sour notes struck at Paul’s party at the Executive Court hotel here. Most in the crowd seemed delighted by Paul’s strong finish, expected to be second place. Hundreds, mostly young adults, jammmed into the ballroom of the Executive Court hotel snacking on chicken tenders and meatballs.
At 9 p.m., moments after Romney ended his speech, the 76-year-old Texas congressman took the stage, to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” His wife, Carol, who was jostled Monday by cameramen during a breakfast visit to a roadside diner, was at his side.
Paul thanked his family and his staff -- and the Union Leader, an influential local newspaper, “for not endorsing me!” (The Union Leader endorsed likely fourth-or fifth-place finisher Newt Gingrich.) Paul said he’d made a congratulatory phone call to Romney. “He certainly had a clear-cut victory,” said Paul, “but we’re nibbling at his heels!”
Paul’s 16-minute speech hit on all his favorite libertarian themes, including some that were once too obscure for a presidential campaign, such as abolishing the Federal Reserve. “This is the first presidential campaign that the subject ever came up since the Federal Reserve was started,” said Paul, who seems continually surprised that he’s been able to inject the topic into the public discourse.
“We have had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight,” said Paul. “The intellectual revolution that’s going on now to restore liberty in this country is well on its way, and there’s no way they’re going to stop the momentum we have started . . . I sorta have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous. That’s one thing they are telling the truth about because we are dangerous to the status quo.”
Looking on from the back of the ballroom, a 52-year-old real estate agent from Long Island nodded approvingly. “He stays on message, but it comes from his heart and he doesn’t sound like a broken record,” said Gigi Bowman. “Romney sounds rehearsed. When Ron Paul speaks, it comes from the heart. Maybe I am biased, but I want to listen to him every time he says something.”
Shortly before Paul spoke, Eileen Campbell, 57, and her 20-year-old son, Robert Campbell, said they had driven up from the Boston suburb of Quincy to hold Paul signs at a polling place in Salem for several hours. Eileen, a nurse at Boston Medical Center, said her son had introduced her to Paul, with whom he’s become somewhat “obsessed” (not uncommon among younger Paul fans).
“Why would a 20-year-old care?” asked Robert Campbell, who spoke knowledgeably about the Fed and the place the dollar has as the world’s reserve currency. “If we’re going to enjoy our lives and have any kind of freedom it’s obvious we have to make some change.”
After Paul’s 16-minute speech, his supporters streamed out of the ballroom. As you might expect at a gathering of libertarians, a few dozen stood in the cold night, puffing away on cigarettes.
As one man walked with his twenty-something son to their car, he said, “The Republicans can’t win without our 25%. They cannot win without us.”