Paul finds niche support from campus libertarians

Today, Ron Paul’s name may elicit little more than puzzled looks from many Yale students. But his small but dedicated group of campus supporters are looking to change that.

Yalies who support Paul’s presidential campaign said they are gearing up to advocate for the Texas congressman’s platform and increase his presence at Yale in the coming months. Already, campus libertarians and administrators of Paul’s Facebook group at Yale said they are developing a game plan for establishing a Yale Students for Ron Paul organization.

Although supporters said they are enthusiastic about consolidating their efforts to elect the Republican as he makes his second bid for the presidency in 20 years, many students interviewed said they are unfamiliar with Paul’s platform or simply do not support his candidacy.

Paul’s supporters on campus — who are mostly members of the Yale College Libertarians or the Party of the Right, one of seven parties in the Yale Political Union — said they agree with Paul’s belief in limiting the size and scope of government and his strict constitutionalist approach to interpreting the Constitution.

Former Yale College Libertarians President Ben Darrington ’08 said he plans to work toward forming a group for students supporting Paul because he is drawn to Paul’s “new direction” for the country.

“There’s a lot of people excited and willing to help out,” Darrington said. “We’re just trying to coordinate more.”

Paul’s libertarian supporters said he is the only candidate on the right or the left who embraces libertarian principles of small government.

Jake McGuire ’10, former President of the Yale College Libertarians and a member of the Party of the Right, said he would like Paul to represent the Republican Party in November’s general election, even if his candidacy would cost the party the election.

“I’d rather lose the presidency with Ron Paul than win the presidency with Giuliani,” McGuire said.

But McGuire said he — like other campus supporters — recognizes the challenges in mustering large-scale support for the little-known doctor-turned-politician.

Paul supporters said they are disappointed with the lack of media coverage their candidate receives.

“It’s frustrating that he is ignored by the mainstream media and Republican Party,” Adam Solomon ’10 said. “Ron Paul is marginalized, and he isn’t getting as much support as he deserves.”

But Paul has received widespread attention on the Internet. According to Paul’s campaign Web site, he has almost three times as many YouTube.com subscribers to his channel than Democratic candidate Barack Obama, whose 11,000 hits are the second most.

McGuire said even he was surprised by the response Paul’s small online effort has provoked.

“I founded Yale for Ron Paul [on Facebook], but more as a response to Yale for Hillary,” McGuire said. “In March it looked like he was a third-tier novelty, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response.”

Despite Paul’s limited presence on Yale’s campus, national organizers said they are pleased with the student support they have received across the country.

Kerri Price ’07, the assistant director of communications for Ron Paul 2008, said Paul’s campaign is drawing in students of all political persuasions.

“[Students] believe that the love of liberty is no passing fad, and that only a proponent of limited government can help restore our liberties which have been stripped from us under the guise of security,” she said in an e-mail. “This is why students flock to our campaign … Their energy really feeds the heart and soul of this campaign.”

Still, many students said they are unfamiliar with Paul and his positions.

Elizabeth Bershad ’11 said that although she has been following the presidential campaign in the news, she knows little about Paul.

“I’ve seen him on C-SPAN during a presidential debate,” she said. “But he didn’t make an impression on me.”

Even those familiar with Paul’s views disagree about whether he is the best Republican candidate. Carl Forsberg ’09, the chairman of the YPU’s Tory Party, said he sympathizes with Paul but does not think his policy proposals are realistic.

“I respect Ron Paul, but his policies aren’t workable with American politics or the world,” he said. “As a conservative I’m in favor of limited government, but Ron Paul doesn’t take into account the nature of American society.”

Paul has consistently garnered less than 5 percent in national polls for the Republican primary.

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