With Plenty of Doubters, Paul Defends His Frontrunner Status; Bachmann Swings Into (and out of) Town
As caucus season heats up, even small towns in Iowa are seeing multiple candidates in the same day.
Caucus season in Iowa is in full swing. If you don't like the presidential candidate visiting your town, just wait a few minutes and you'll get a new one.
Take small town Washington, population roughly 7,000, highly regarded for its picturesque main square. Ron Paul already drew an overflow crowd of about 200 people to the Washington Public Library for a 3 p.m. speech. A few hours later, Michele Bachmann was set to arrive a few blocks away at the Frontier Family Restaurant.
At Paul's event, he defended his frontrunner status when asked about the Republican establishment's hesitancy to support him as a legitimate candidate, with some going so far as to suggest that a Paul win in Iowa would delegitimize the Caucus.
"It seems to me that if we're still working within the Democratic process, to throw it out the window just because you don't like the guy who wins -- that doesn't sound very good," Paul said. "I think we should demand an honest, up front, Democratic process."
That answer was perfect for Jon Hazell, 43, a filmmaker and tax accountant from Burlington who took the day off to follow Ron Paul on his stops at Fort Dodge, Mount Pleasant and Burlington. Hazell said the size of crowds showing up at Paul events, including the one in Washington, are a validation of the candidate, who he first voted for in the 2008 caucus.
"The one thing that Republicans aren't going to be able to do now is disrespect him," Hazell said. "The eyes of the nation are on Ron Paul."
Paul touched on many of his usual themes during the visit: his concern for protecting civil liberties, his goal to lower the national debt and reduce the size of the federal government, and his opposition to foreign entanglements.
"The solution is-- cut the money from over seas and let's get busy doing the things that we need to do here," Paul said of his desire to end military conflicts in other countries.
Paul's lines about cutting debt and restoring civil liberties drew big cheers from the crowd. He also got several nods when talking about foreign policy, his supposed weakness among the Republican base.
During the question-and-answer segment, Paul was challenged by Danielle Lin, 35, a cancer survivor from Iowa City who said she is concerned about the ramifications of a health insurance agency which is not regulated by the federal government.
A stay-at-home mom, Lin said she voted for Obama in 2008 but hasn't been thrilled about what he's done. Still, she said she liked that Obamacare gave some protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
"Right now, I have a pre-existing condition, even though I am clean and I have no cancer right now, I can't get any insurance if my husband lost his job tomorrow," she said.
Paul said her concerns could be addressed by having a contract that insurance companies can't break when a need arises.
"If you have a policy, you shouldn't be able to cancel your service when you need it," Paul said. "That should be illegal."
Paul also said that part of the problem is that people can't shop for their insurance on the open marketplace, as this would ensure that insurance carriers could be rewarded by consumers for being more reliable.
Paul conceded though that even under his ideal system, there still would be pockets of people that weren't covered for whatever reason.
"There still would be people who would have problems," Paul said.
He said that he would plan funding for people that weren't covered to aid them in a transition to a free market system. As he did before during a previous debate, Paul suggested that churches and other groups might be able to step in and fill this gap.
Lin, after the speech was completed, said that she loved Ron Paul for his support of returning liberty to Americans, but after his healthcare answer, she didn't know if she would caucus for him.
"There has to be some middle ground where government can still regulate these industries, because they're not doing it themselves," she said. "There has to be a better answer than just saying 'sorry, you're on you own' and leaving them to die or go deep into debt paying their medical bills."
A few blocks away, Michele Bachmann held her own event at the Frontier Family Restaurant at 5 p.m. The crowd packed into the restaurant, but the chatter remained happy as they craned their necks to see Bachmann.
Bachmann worked her way through the room quickly, a whirldwind of good cheer -- shaking hands, giving hugs, stopping to tape a campaign promo and telling everyone to watch her on the Sean Hannity show later that evening.
"I'm a prudent conservative and the best candidate to beat Barack Obama," Bachmann said, quickly, as she stopped for a moment, in between shakes, for an interview.
Then, just like that, she was on to the next stop.
Larry Love, 58, a farmer and Bachmann supporter from nearby Crawfordsville, was able to snag himself a hug with the Minnesota Congresswoman. He said he plans to vote for her because she is a constitutional conservative and has a character he admires.
"She's got the intelligence, and she's got the spine to get things done," Love said.
David Miller, 63, a marketing manager from in town in Washington, also praised Bachmann for her tenacity.
"I think she's a bulldog, plain and simple," Miller said. "She takes strong positions on a lot of things I believe in."
Miller, who said he will not caucus for Paul because he's "too extreme," said he has narrowed his voting choices to Santorum, Bachmann and Gingrich. He said concerns are the ballooning national debt and securing America's borders.
Miller said he was thrilled to have the chance to meet all the candidates in person.
"I think it's awesome to be able to shake hands with all of them," Miller said.