EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire Elections

January 7, 2012

Paul: 'There's room for change'

NASHUA — Ron Paul said he's ready to beat Mitt Romney — and show him what a real conservative looks like.

Paul criticized President Barack Obama and his fellow Republicans in equal measure at a rally yesterday in an airplane hangar in Nashua.

With son Rand Paul at his side, he spoke for 15 minutes to a crowd of several hundred supporters who chanted his name.

"All my opponents support the status quo," he said. "Americans are frustrated and see leadership of both parties doing nothing. This is not a state that likes big government."

Paul said he believes he can beat Romney in New Hampshire, despite the polls.

"We did very well in Iowa and we're predicting we're going to do very well on Tuesday," he said. "A lot of people don't even decide until the day of the election. There's room for change. Message is what counts and our numbers are growing."

Paul may not be wrong to be hopeful. He has more than doubled his support in New Hampshire since 2008 and is solidly in second place heading into Tuesday, according to Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

"We've always had a libertarian streak in New Hampshire," he said. "And Paul's managed to expand the base of his voters to include not only libertarians, but also some moderate and liberal Republicans who are attracted to his message. People like Ron Paul because they don't feel at home in either party, and they see him as a true maverick and a true independent."

But Scala said Paul has not campaigned very aggressively. He took a few days off after the Iowa caucuses and only flew back into New Hampshire yesterday.

"It's puzzling," Scala said. "Sometimes it doesn't seem that Ron Paul cares all that much about whether he's the nominee of the party or not. I think his goal is to change the direction of the party and make the Republicans a true small government party with much less intervention overseas."

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