Posted Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, at 11:57 AM
HOLLIS, N.H. -- Two days ago, Rick Santorum booked the community center in this town. It overflowed with supporters, who spilled outside on the left and right of the building. Ron Paul dodged Santorum's problem -- and given the number of non-New Hampshire voters at the event, it sort of was a problem -- by keeping the exact event location fairly quiet, and asking would-be-attendees to RSVP online.
The media had to RSVP, too. I showed up at the barn, talked to some voters, and figured that the outreach to undecided was... mostly working. Some Massachusetts tourists (the Massachusetts field director of the John Birch Society left behind his business card) were outnumbered by people like John Hasychak, who "was enamoured by John McCain last time" and regretted it. Then I noticed (thanks to people gawking through a window) that Paul and a bank of TV cameras were in another room. When I tried to get in, a friendly, well-trained volunteer informed me that the "private event" was off limits; there were some pre-set interviews, with Fox and CNN, and that was it. As I gave up, Paul's spokesman Jesse Benton stormed out, CNN's Dana Bash behind him, announcing how annoyed the campaign was with the network. What had annoyed the campaign? According to Bash, it was a question about whether Paul's brisk run-through of a restaurant, without much one-on-one time with voters, said something about his retail skills.
Quibble about the question if you like, but Paul's final day campaign schedule is a little baffling. Most polls show him locked in 2nd place, positioned to win delegates here. He could close out, as other candidates are closing out, with some giant rallies. Instead, he started at a diner, continued to Hollis, and will close with a visit to a Timberland Factory. This Hollis event was put on for home-schoolers; Lee Button, state chairman of Home-Schoolers for Ron Paul, helped put it together to rev up Paul's support with a key evangelical group. So Paul's closing message was an appeal to the niche.
"The first department I'd cut would be the Department of Education," he promised. "From a constitutional perspective, and as a moral responsibility, education is the responsibility of parents. We need to make sure there is never a wall that prevents home schooling from competing with private schooling."
And that was that for home-schooling: This wasn't a hard crowd to convince. A short Q&A took us much further afield, with one of the fans asking what Paul would do about Agenda 21, a UN sustainable development program that sets synapses burning among Tea Party voters.
"My position is, I don't think we should be in the United Nations," said Paul. "Any plan of the UN to further undermine our national sovereignty, I'm absolutely against it." But the bigger international danger was not sustainable development. "They're talking about monetary reform," he said, "and they're talking about an international paper currency run by IMF, which is part of the United Nations. That is indeed a threat."