SANDPOINT - No one can pack a North Idaho venue like Ron Paul.
After resident Tim Fry succeeded in securing the presidential candidate's visit to Sandpoint, event planners were unsure of how many chairs to set up. They started with 500, and when those were filled a half-hour before the town hall meeting began, they quickly added 250 more.
In the end, there was standing room only for the late-comers. More than 1,300 people showed up to hear Paul speak.
"It's great to see so much enthusiasm in what one might call a small town, but a very important town for the cause of liberty," Paul told the crowd.
Indeed, attendees delivered enthusiasm in spades. They cheered Paul's platforms, booed his mention of bills like the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act and shouted words of support throughout the meeting, which clocked in at just under an hour.
The famously libertarian candidate also saw a wide variety of attendees to the rally. Some, like Bonner County Commissioner Cornel Rasor, were longtime members of the established Idaho Republican Party. Others, like Tea Party activist Pam Stout, were fiscal conservatives seeking a frugal candidate. Still others were politically unaffiliated or young individuals attracted to Paul's message of small government and minimal federal interference.
The latter category is no surprise to Paul. He said young people make up a huge percentage of his support base.
"That's where I receive the strongest support," he told press members after the meeting, later adding, "Certain individuals who haven't been brainwashed by the system would like to be individualistic, and I think young people are attracted to that."
He supported that position during the town hall meeting by condemning the Patriot Act of 2001, which dramatically expanded the government's powers of law enforcement, and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, which allowed indefinite detention of suspected terrorists by the military. He also pointed out that on Jan. 1, 40,000 new national laws went into effect.
"I'd like to see the day, if I am to be your president, where we get rid of 40,000 laws on Jan. 1," he said.
If it was his message of personal liberty that attracted young people, his economic and taxation stances no doubt appealed to fiscal conservatives. During his speech, Paul promised to cut $1 trillion from the budget in his first year of office. He also took a stand against a federal income tax.
"If we own our lives, own our liberty and own our responsibility for ourselves, we should be given the right to keep the fruits of our labor," he said.
One major source of savings Paul proposedwas the dramatic decrease of a U.S. presence in foreign affairs. He called for an end to overseas wars and a refocusing of the military.
"We need to change our policy to focus on the defense of this country and not to the policing of the world," he said.
Finally, Paul emphasized some major revisions to the national monetary system. He called for a return to a silver and gold currency standard and for the elimination of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
"If we obeyed the Constitution in the first place, there would be no Federal Reserve system at all," he said.
After a question-and-answer session and a brief meeting with press members, Paul left for an afternoon rally in Moscow, followed by another in Idaho Falls. However, he said the Sandpoint engagement set a good tone for the rest of the day.
"(Meetings like this) really boost me up," he said. "This was very energizing."