Posted Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, at 11:25 AM
DETROIT -- Chris Moody traveled to the largest mosque in Michigan to find out whether any Republicans were courting Muslim votes. His answer: An Arabic flier for Ron Paul, and some fear and loathing of Paul's rivals.
Arab Republicans in the Detroit area say they are planning to announce a joint endorsement of Paul with about 150 mostly Muslim business leaders. In interviews with Yahoo News, those signing onto the pending endorsement expressed dismay with candidates like Newt Gingrich, who refers to Palestinians as an "invented people"--Arab Americans here jokingly call Gingrich "the invented candidate"--and Rick Santorum, for his hawkish stance on Iran and his stalwart defense of Israel.
"They've come out against practically every position that the Arabs in the community support," said Nasser Beydoun, the former head of American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn. "I don't think Republicans are focused on immigrants in general or Arab Americans. They're too busy catering to the fringes of the party."
Paul's focus on Detroit is a clear window into his campaign. Maximizing votes would be nice. Spreading the "message of liberty" to unmarked territory is even better. Because you don't ramp up your popular vote by winning over Muslims in a Michigan Republican primary. In 2008, when Democrats only held a token primary (Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich appeared on the ballot, along with "uncommitted"), a whopping 0 percent of Republican voters identified as Muslims. Less than 2 percent were non-white.
Paul has an outside shot of winning the 13th district here, a nearly Republican-free zone. But the focus on Muslims and a final election day stop in a Detroit church is meant to prove something else: Paul can talk libertarianism anywhere. On the way into the event I met Keith Dixon, a 28-year old Michigander who was straightening things out by getting his high school diploma.
"He tells the truth, man," said Dixon. "He doesn't want to control our lives, because he understands that if you love people you'll let them be free. And he's not a puppet. The other guys are puppets, doing what Israel wants."