Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — When about 500 voters packed into a New Hampshire town hall last week to hear Ron Paul speak, they saved their biggest applause for something no other Republican presidential candidate is talking about.
“I would like to restore your right to drink raw milk anytime you like!” Paul said to loud and sustained cheers in the historic Peterborough Town House.
It was an emblematic moment for Paul’s campaign, which is powered by his call for slashing federal government and expanding personal liberties, including the freedom to drink unpasteurized milk that the U.S. government brands “unsafe.”
“We’re fanatics,” said 24-year-old Tristan Contas of Durham, New Hampshire, a recent college graduate who is planning to spend the week before the state’s primary volunteering for Paul in a youth-driven push the campaign is organizing. “Young people don’t like people telling them what to do — it’s a certain rebellion against the authority that is our government – – and Dr. Paul really speaks to that.”
Paul, 76, has attained cult-like status in his third run for the presidency. He is gaining in Republican primary polls in large part because of his penchant for saying things no one else in his party dares to, and not just about dairy products. He advocates auditing and then scrapping the Federal Reserve, withdrawing all U.S. troops from overseas war zones, and cutting $1 trillion in government spending in one year, including closing five federal agencies.
“I would be a different kind of president. I wouldn’t be looking for more power. Everybody wants to be a powerful executive and run things. I, as a president, wouldn’t want to run the world,” Paul said in a Fox News debate on Dec. 15.
An unorthodox message isn’t the only way Paul’s campaign is a world apart from that of his rivals. The eldest candidate in the race, his support includes legions of students and young professionals who provide a hipster vibe — from the raw milk sometimes found in the refrigerator at the New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Concord to Paul’s appearances and frequent mentions on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.