FREEPORT, Maine — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and his presidential campaign swept through Maine on Tuesday in an attempt to pick up where his father left off in a quest to become the darling of libertarian-leaning voters.
Paul brought his campaign to Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen and Topside Tavern on Main Street in Freeport, where a few hundred enthusiastic supporters gathered in an upstairs room. That contrasted with an appearance by Paul’s father, Ron Paul, a former Texas congressman and presidential candidate who drew 1,000 people during a chilly outdoor rally in January 2012.
Paul, in a twist on the political “soap box” tradition, stood on a red milk crate so the crowd could see him. He voiced many of the same talking points he has been using across the country, espousing personal freedom and smaller government ideals ranging from reinventing the tax code to imposing congressional term limits to deep corporate and individual tax cuts. He distanced himself from both Republicans and Democrats, the former of which he said were unwilling to consider cuts in defense spending and the latter of which he said were too quick to increase welfare spending.
“They are all big spenders,” said Paul. “There’s an unholy alliance in Washington. They close the door, do their secret handshake … and spending goes through the roof.”
Paul said he favors financial audits and deep spending cuts across the government, including in the military. He also said he wants to erode some of the power that has accumulated in the executive branch.
“I am not going to go [to the White House] to accumulate power,” he said. “I’m going to give it back to you, to the states and to the people.”
Paul’s visit comes as he struggles to gain momentum in a Republican primary race that has attracted at least 15 candidates. He is mired way back in the pack with around 3 percent support, according to an average of several polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com. Worse, he has less than half the support enjoyed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is seen as the other libertarian choice among the Republicans in the race.
Tuesday’s event in Freeport recalled a similar event in the same location in 2012 — also hosted by Linda Bean — that featured Ron Paul, who was vying for the Republican nomination at the time. The size of the 2012 crowd — estimated at around 1,000 people — shut down Main Street. It was the first signal that the elder Paul had galvanized a more visible libertarian movement in Maine.
Many in the crowd on Tuesday wore Ron Paul paraphernalia. Others said they held libertarian ideals and were at the event to decide about their support for Paul. They were unconcerned about Paul’s poll numbers. Spencer Bathory of Hollis said Paul’s support would rise when Republican Donald Trump, who is leading the polls by far, fades.
“He’s not flashy,” said Bathory. “He’s much more down to Earth. He’s not Donald Trump, a media celebrity.”
Michael Gauthier of Albion was a supporter of Ron Paul and said Rand is unquestionably his choice.
“There’s a lot of time left in this race,” he said. “We’ll charge ahead once Trump deflates, and Cruz just panders to Trump.”
In contrast to people who traveled to the Freeport event from afar, Kelly Fitzrandolph and her 7-year-old son, Kai, walked from their nearby home. Fitzrandolph said she attended just to expose her son to the scene.
“Maybe he’ll become the president, and we’ll have seen him here today,” she said.
“Or it will be boring and we’ll go home,” said Kai, who was spotted outside, just as the event ended, halfway through eating an ice cream.