By Catherine Holahan
They came from as far away as Texas and crossed party lines to arrive in Minneapolis on Tuesday. But the thousands of people lined up outside the Target Center in Minneapolis didn?? come for the Republican National Convention. They were here for Ron Paul?? ??ther convention.?/p>
The Texan developed a large Web following during his run for the Republican nomination, attracting many life-long Republicans, some anti-war Democrats, and a healthy slice of Silicon Valley with his staunch support of small government and non-interventionist foreign policy. “He is setting up a system that will allow people to reduce the federal government and give back to the states,” says Gordon Stark, a retired marketer turned construction worker who traveled to Minneapolis from Texas the hear Paul launch his “Campaign For Liberty.”
Stark has voted for Republicans for the better part of two decades. But this year he is volunteering to spread the word about Ron Paul online and off. To him, both Barack Obama and John McCain are big-government advocates intent on over-spending on federal programs and financing it through higher taxes and foreign-owned debt.
Such sentiments were echoed by Democrat converts gathered in the arena. "I was an Obama supporter a year ago because I was ignorant," says Christopher Stearns, a 21-year-old Virginia Beach resident who plans to write Ron Paul's name on his ballot come November. He believes that both Obama and McCain will increase the national debt, leading to higher taxes for him in the future.
Part of the reason why neither of the major-party candidates appeal to Paul supporters is that many those voters take a strong libertarian position that largely rejects the role of a federal government. They argue for abolishing the Federal Reserve, which they see as over-regulating the economy and leading to inflation. They believe the income tax should be abolished and the IRS should be dismantled. They advocate returning power to the states and preventing the federal government from selling debt to foreign countries or spending on foreign wars.
The question for the Republicans is whether Ron Paul's following is large enough to siphon a significant number of voters away from John McCain. As the crowd stood waiting for the Target Center doors to open, many said they planned to write Paul's name onto their ballot.