Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 | 2 a.m.
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Ron Paul, a long-shot Republican presidential candidate with a cult following, did not break from his maverick campaign approach Tuesday: Instead of appealing to large crowds of undecided voters, he met with members of his base.
They include: staunch constructionists of the Constitution, opponents of the war in Iraq, strong advocates of beefed-up border control and an end to coalitions with Mexico and Canada, and people who literally wear the American flag on their sleeves.
“Most of what we do in Washington isn’t permitted under the Constitution,” Paul told about 70 people, including staff and members of the media, at Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas. “This causes most of the problems.”
Predictably, when gun rights advocate Catherine Klimenkov asked the Texas congressman whether he supports the Second Amendment “the right of people to keep and bear arms” Paul responded, “What do you think?”
Laughter filled the restaurant’s annex, a small room at the rear with a steeply arched roof from which a gold-colored chandelier dangled.
Entrance was permitted only to those invited by March for America, a national coalition of advocacy groups including the Minutemen and You Don’t Speak. The same was true of Paul’s midday event in Las Vegas, the Third Tuesday Coalition Luncheon hosted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
Tuesday’s events were Paul’s last two scheduled in Nevada before Saturday’s caucus. He is heading east to campaign in South Carolina, whose Republican primary is garnering far more attention within the party than the Silver State’s caucus.
Despite Paul’s unorthodox strategy in Nevada, no Republican has campaigned here more. And in the three days before Saturday’s caucus, only one of his rivals is expected to campaign here former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who on Tuesday won Michigan’s primary.
In an interview, Paul said he didn’t understand why the other candidates had largely ignored Nevada in favor of Michigan and South Carolina.
“I think there’s a fertile field here in Nevada,” Paul said. “It’s easier to run a grass-roots campaign here. There’s potential here.”
Paul’s push for an end to illegal immigration is especially popular in Nevada particularly with those at Memphis Championship Barbecue.
The congressman noted that some people who are sympathetic to undocumented residents advocate for “humanitarian efforts.”
Paul views such efforts as “subsidized immigration.”
“What about the humanitarian efforts of us? Hospitals in Texas closing down,” he said. “Border guards are in, of all places, Iraq. They ought to be here.”
One attendee asked Paul, who is polling in the single digits in Nevada, whether he’d consider running as a third-party candidate if Arizona Sen. John McCain is the Republican nominee. Paul acknowledged he’d been asked that question several times and said he wasn’t inclined to do so.
But what if March for America tells him he’s its last hope?
“It is our belief that he is the last train to freedom ... and we don’t know when another one is coming,” said Jonnie Crivello, March’s founder.