Who would believe that the candidate generating buzz and excitement on the 2008 Republican presidential campaign trail is a seventy-two year old medical doctor from a small town in Texas?
Who would believe that a libertarian who is calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from not only Iraq but from all of the Middle East has a large following among younger voters?
Who would believe that a man calling for a return to the gold standard and who favors no entangling alliances would be raising a good deal of money on the Internet?
Is Congressman Ron Paul surprised by his new popularity?
When I asked him that question before he spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 people at my Center on Politics and Foreign Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS on September 12th, he replied, "I am a little bit surprised by my popularity. I was skeptical about running for president at first."
Why do people drive five hours to hear him speak as they did for his speech at Johns Hopkins and why do people hand him books on the gold standard to autograph?
Congressman Paul says, "Young people like my non-intervention policy and they like my personal liberty views as well."
The native of Pittsburgh who served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s told me "I am not a pacifist".
But, he is a believer in non-intervention by America abroad. "Intervention is not beneficial to us," he said in our interview.
Rep. Paul is a strong believer in "a return to constitutional principles" and wouldn't ever go to war unless Congress voted a declaration of war in the future.
The Texas Congressman speaks his mind and has great faith in his views. In addition to his anti-war views it seems as if he is developing a strong group of supporters who see him as honest and true to his principles.
Some of his views make sense and some of them seem to be nonsense. His assertion that "If we hadn't had troops in the Middle East for the last 50 years terrorists wouldn't have attacked us on 9-11" is a preposterous statement.
He also had some suggestions for arming civilians to capture Bin Laden that seemed a bit unusual to say the least.
Rep. Paul is causing a stir in the 2008 presidential race and he is raising money. His chances of winning the Republican nomination are nil but perhaps with his strong and vocal group of supporters he might run as an Independent candidate in 2008 although he says he will not.
His old-fashioned views which he says are "Old, Old Right positions of the 1950s" are attracting a crowd of supporters that run the spectrum from liberal Democrats to anti-war Independents to people who just like his honesty and anti-intervention views.
As he says, "You don't have to be warmongers to be conservative".
He may not be an enigma. He may not be your average Republican candidate for president. He may not be saying anything that is particularly new or radical.
But, Congressman Paul is certainly adding some needed excitement to the 2008 presidential race. In my last column I said Americans are looking for excitement in their presidential candidates. To his many hardcore supporters the Texas doctor is providing that excitement.
I was astonished at the intensity of his supporters in our audience. I was amazed at their lengthy emails to me saying what a breath of fresh air he is in the presidential race.
So more power to the honest, anti-war, anti-intervention, pro-gold standard, pro-Constitution candidate from Texas who states, "It is not my responsibility as president to attack other countries".
He has struck a nerve and has found support among some voters looking for answers to our problems. He seems like a gentleman who, speaks sense and also nonsense, while attempting to solve the problems of our day.
Congressman Paul is certainly interesting, entertaining and a student of history. I look forward to following his comments along the campaign trail.