Ron Paul draws overflow crowd in Vancouver

About 1,500 attend Republican presidential candidate’s rally; hundreds turned away

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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See bottom of this story for The Columbian's video of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's rally in Vancouver.

photoRepublican presidential candidate Ron Paul takes the stage during a rally at the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Thursday. The crowd waved signs and chanted “President Paul” to show their support. At top, Paul meets with members of the press after speaking at the rally.

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User photos: Ron Paul's visit to Vancouver

Ron Paul on Feb. 16, 2012, visited Vancouver. He gave a speech as part of a rally at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

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Recap of Ron Paul's Thursday visit

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul made a stop in downtown Vancouver on Thursday afternoon, energizing his supporters before the March 3 precinct caucuses in Washington state.

The Republican candidate with a strong libertarian philosophy spoke before a crowd of more than 1,500 people in the ballroom of the Hilton Vancouver Washington. Paul elicited rounds of applause when speaking against current military involvement overseas and the war on drugs, and prompted boos against government bailouts and the detainment of U.S. citizens without due process.

Paul is a 12th-term U.S. House member from Texas. He is competing for the Republican presidential nomination along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. Romney is the on-again, off-again frontrunner in the race.

The line to enter the ballroom for Thursday’s rally extended two blocks down Columbia Street, and a few hundred weren’t allowed into the ballroom because the

crowd inside had reached maximum capacity. Doors opened at 3 p.m., but the first person in line to see Paul arrived at 11:30 a.m.

Paul told the crowd that, if elected, he would try to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget, eliminate several federal departments and bring troops home. He also said he opposes income taxes, the president’s ability to line-item veto legislation, and lawmakers who don’t follow a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The type of government a country gets is not an accident,” he said.

Following the speech, Paul was asked by press about his thoughts on federal funding for the project to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River. Paul said it’s inappropriate for the federal government to take taxpayer dollars from states and then make states apply to get that federal money back for their transportation projects.

He also said during his speech that the Federal Reserve inflates currency in a way that benefits special interests and hurts everyday people once financial bubbles burst. He would try to eliminate the Federal Reserve and take the country back to a currency system backed by tangible commodities such as gold and silver.

The current currency system “allows governments to grow in a seductive manner,” he said.

Following Paul’s speech, campaign volunteers were on site to teach people how to participate in the caucus process. Volunteers were present from Oregon, as well as Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, Klickitat, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties in Washington.

In April 2008, Paul’s highly organized supporters swamped the Clark County Republican Convention, winning 71 of 89 delegate seats to the state convention.

In the 2008 race, two of three delegates and two of three alternates to the national convention from Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District pledged to Paul. Arizona Sen. John McCain won the party’s nomination.

One of Paul’s volunteers, Vancouver’s Richard Colwell, said Wednesday that he’s been spending his extra time lately knocking on doors and making phone calls to encourage voters to choose Paul.

Colwell said he supports Paul because Paul doesn’t waver on issues -- and that shows integrity. Meanwhile, Romney adopted more liberal policies as governor of Massachusetts, Colwell said.

Colwell said if Paul loses the nomination, Colwell won’t vote for anyone else.

“If he’s not running, I’ll still write his name in,” he said.

Woodland resident Arleen Martin, 79, was among the audience on Thursday. Martin said she hasn’t decided which candidate she’ll vote for yet. She’s torn between Paul and Santorum.

“There is nothing I’ve heard (from Paul) that I don’t like,” Martin said. “I don’t think Ron Paul is going to pull the presidency, but I do feel if he can stay on top of the game, his ideas are going to penetrate to other people who are running. If he keeps pushing, then, maybe we can see some real change.”

Paul’s visit to Vancouver on Thursday was one of several stops on his Pacific Northwest tour. He headed to SeaTac after his Vancouver rally. On Friday, he plans to visit the Tri-Cities and Spokane on the eastern side of the state.

Paul’s political rivals also have their sights set on Washington state. Santorum was in Tacoma on Monday and Romney plans to visit Seattle on March 1.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

Columbian staff writer Paris Achen contributed to this story.