Presidential candidate Ron Paul was back in Clark County on Friday afternoon, answering questions from a slightly smaller crowd than the one he spoke to on Feb. 16 in downtown Vancouver.
Paul said he hopes to motivate voters to support him in Saturday’s Republican presidential precinct caucuses. In April 2008, Paul proved to have a strong base in Clark County when his highly organized supporters swamped the county’s Republican convention, winning 71 of 89 delegate seats to the state convention.
“Are we going to have a good day tomorrow?” Paul asked the crowd of about 1,200 on Friday at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. He was answered with a standing ovation.
Paul took the stage at about 4 p.m., spoke for roughly 15 minutes, then took six questions from the crowd. Questions asked during the town hall meeting covered foreign policy, abortion, the Occupy movement, the president’s power to issue executive orders and signing statements, and the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.
One audience member asked why an anti-abortion voter should choose Paul over one of his challengers, the socially conservative Rick Santorum.
“I think it’s because he’s a fake,” Paul said of Santorum, adding that Santorum has weak ideas when it comes to creating the small government outlined in the Constitution.
When asked about foreign policy, Paul said the country should use military power only for self-defense and that the U.S. should stay out of Syria. When asked about the Occupy movement, Paul said some of the group’s ideas are good, and some are bad.
“I don’t want to see people coming down on people who are wealthy,” Paul said, but he added that it’s not right if a corporation is rich because of unfair government policies such as a bailout.
Another audience member asked Paul how the Columbia River Crossing project to replace the I-5 bridge should be paid for. Paul said he disagrees with the federal government’s taking transportation money from states and then making the states jump through hoops to get their transportation money back. Those federal dollars should be distributed back to the states, and then Oregon and Washington can figure out how to pay for the bridge, Paul said.
Paul also told the crowd that he thinks the president should not effectively have the power to line-item veto bills through the use of signing statements, and that the president should follow the rules of the Constitution when it comes to making executive orders. The constitution states that a president can make an executive order in times of war, for example.
Before Paul took the stage Friday, former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders expressed his support for Paul and noted it was Paul’s second visit to Southwest Washington in just over two weeks.
“I guess we can say this is the second coming,” Sanders joked. “Hallelujah. I never thought I’d see the day.”
Vancouver resident Johannes Vonderluft attended both of Paul’s Clark County rallies this year, and said people weren’t as lively Friday as they were at the earlier rally in downtown Vancouver.
“There were a lot of people turned away from the last one,” Vonderluft said, while Friday’s event had some empty seats. That might have made the rally feel less energetic, he said.
Last month, more than 1,500 people showed up to hear Paul speak in the ballroom of the Hilton Vancouver Washington. He did not take questions from the audience, but he spent several minutes after his 45-minute speech shaking hands and chatting with members of the public.
On Friday, Paul was on stage for a total of 30 minutes.
Paul, a 12th-term U.S. House member from Texas, is competing for the Republican presidential nomination with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. Romney is often referred to as the presumptive GOP nominee.
San Francisco residents Paige Peterson and Alex Beltramo said they were impressed with Paul’s answers Friday. The two started driving from California a couple of days ago for a chance to see Paul in person.
Beltramo was particularly impressed with Paul’s answer on Syria, because Paul demonstrated that he knew the context and history behind the issue, and, “He gave a very straightforward answer about what he would do,” Beltramo said.
Republican presidential precinct caucuses take place 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.