NEWTON, Iowa--Ron Paul narrowly leads the RealClearPolitics average of the most recent polls of Republican voters in Iowa, with Mitt Romney close behind. And he has attracted a loyal and active following that has helped him win straw polls across the country (and a close second place in the Aug. 13, 2011, Iowa straw poll) as well as raise formidable amounts of money.
But it remains unclear if his supporters will come out in force for the caucuses on Tuesday.
"I think so--if I get information, yeah, I'll be there," Lorraine DeNardis, a Paul supporter, told Yahoo News when asked after a town-hall meeting with the candidate if she plans participate in the Jan. 3 caucuses.
Addressing a crowd of around 150 attendees Wednesday at the town hall, Paul spoke exactly as he always has: hammering home his disdain for big government, his commitment to lower spending and his respect for the Constitution.
Though he did note that some things appear to be a little bit different these days.
"This looks like there are more cameras than there used to be," Paul said, noting the dozen TV cameramen on a riser at the back of the meeting room--in addition to the reporters and print photographers positioned around his podium. "I've been talking about freedom for a long time-- that's what motivated me to get into politics-- and for many years the crowds were very small, little interest. And it's steadily grown."
Paul received loud applause from the crowd for the cornerstones of his presidential platform, including eliminating the Department of Education and cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget in his first year in office.
"People say, That means everybody has to suffer," Paul said of the reaction to his spending-slashing plans. "Well, not necessarily. The people who got bailed out, they might have to suffer, but they should suffer. They should go bankrupt, not us."
"Before I thought he was just too radical but I rethought it and it makes sense," David Rethmeier of Rock Creek, Iowa, told Yahoo News, adding that he first became a Paul supporter this cycle and considers himself an independent.
"I think he has awakened a lot of people like me who were never really interested in politics," Jeff Neelson of Iowa City, Iowa, told Yahoo News.
As part of its effort to get out the vote next week, Paul's campaign announced on Tuesday that it plans to host 52 caucus training sessions around the state leading up to the caucuses
Lorraine DeNardis, who lives in Bondurant, Iowa, said that the Paul campaign's email on Tuesday helped her to identify a local meeting in Clive that she may attend.
Paul did not respond to any inquiries from reporters as he entered and exited Wednesday's town hall meeting. He has been fending off a new spate of news stories about newsletters written under his name in the 1980s and 1990s that contained racist language. Paul says he did not write the newsletters and that he rejects the controversial comments.
David Chalian contributed to this story.
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