Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul made a rare appearance in South Carolina Wednesday, speaking to about 350 supporters in a hangar at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport for 20 minutes.
Paul touched on two of his themes that have resonated among his base– bringing troops back from overseas and ending the Federal Reserve system. It was his first appearance in the state in 2012, and his first since a Spartanburg debate in mid-November.
He touted his strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire (third and second, respectively) as evidence his campaign is gaining steam. “We’re not so small. We’re not so much a minority,” he told the audience, “We’re marching on; the numbers are growing. They grew exponentially in New Hampshire and they’re going to grow continuously in South Carolina, as well.”
AUDIO Paul’s entire speech (22:17)
However, the most recent CNN poll conducted last week shows Paul trailing at fourth in the Palmetto State with 12 percent support among likely GOP voters. His campaign seemed to acknowledge his uphill battle in South Carolina before the January 21 primary. Wednesday’s appearance is his only scheduled stop in the state, so far.
Paul did not change his non-interventionist position for military-heavy South Carolina, instead continuing his calls for the United States to pull out of Afghanistan.
“We’ve had some in the Republican Party who think that if you spend less money on child healthcare, you’re conservative,” he said, “But if you spend more (on military spending) it’s supposed to be conservative. Why isn’t being conservative spending less money every place?”
He also called for an audit of the Federal Reserve, which he criticized out for emergency payments the Fed made to the financial sector. In one of his biggest applause moments, Paul said the banks should be accountable for their own risky investments that caused the economic downturn: “They say, ‘well if we don’t bail them out, they’ll all go bankrupt.’ Well, that’s what they should do. They should all go bankrupt.”
The crowd chanted “End the Fed! End the Fed!”
Paul supporters are well-known as being among the most enthusiastic of all the GOP candidates’. They were very supportive of him in Wednesday’s rally.
“The other candidates, they don’t do much for me,” said Teresa Andrews, a Lexington mother, “What attracted me to him is… he doesn’t want to create new things. He wants to get back to what we’re supposed to be as a nation.”
Austin Oelhafen, a Columbia security technician, echoed her sentiments. “He sticks to his guns. You look back 30 years, he said the same exact things,” he said after the rally, “Everybody else, you’ve seen them on different sides of the issues. I don’t think he’s flip-flopped on anything that I can think of.”
Both said they hoped Paul could translate his close runs in Iowa and New Hampshire into similar results in South Carolina.