By: Jack Kenny
December 14, 2007
Trevor Lyman is not your typical Republican primary voter. In fact, the man who engineered the record-breaking, one-day, $4.3 million fundraiser for the Ron Paul campaign on November 5 has never voted at all. The vote he plans to cast for Paul in the New Hampshire primary on January 8 will be his first vote in any election anywhere.
"It's not something I'm proud of," Lyman, 37, said of his non-voting record. But his attitude toward politics changed when he noticed that Democrats, who won last year's congressional elections by running against the war in Iraq, have done virtually nothing to end our military occupation there.
"When you're talking about a war, with people dying, that's no longer acceptable," he said. He began studying issues and reading about the candidates on the Internet and found Paul had opposed the war from the beginning. He liked the Texas congressman's stand on other issues as well, including opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act and warrantless surveillance of international phone calls. And he agrees the government needs to do a better job of guarding our borders.
"How do you serve the country by spying on it, while you leave the borders unprotected?" he asks. Paul, he said, "doesn't say one thing and do another. The more I learned, the more I liked what I heard."
Lyman is a former Merrimack, NH resident who moved to Florida a year and a half ago. He has sold a portion of his ownership of an Internet record promotion business and returned to New Hampshire to work as a volunteer in the Paul campaign. He has taken up residence in Manchester, where he shares an apartment with Vijay Boyapati, a Seattle resident who left his job as an engineer with the Internet search engine Google to travel across the country and join the Paul campaign in the state with the first primary.
Boyapati is organizing "Operation Live Free or Die," a project named after New Hampshire's motto. The goal, he says, is to "bring volunteers from all over the republic to New Hampshire for the last few weeks of the primary to make sure everyone knows Dr. Paul's message of freedom." Some are coming up from Massachusetts or New York for weekends of canvassing in the Granite State. Others have come from considerably further.
"We had a couple from Okahoma last weekend," said the Austrailian-born Boyapati. So far, 400 people from around the country have pledged to make the trip, he said, and he expects 4,000 before the campaign is over.
"They'll help us canvas, go door-to-door handing out materials," said Boyapati. "We also have people doing phone banking."
Paul supporters will be well represented among the 400 to 500 people expected in Nashua, New Hampshire during the final weekend of the primary campaign when the Free State Project will host it's second annual Liberty Forum, January 3-6. The Texas congressman has an enthusiastic following in the Free State Movement, a project to encourage people to move to New Hampshire and work for low taxes and small government. The state was chosen largely because of its lack of either a general sales or income tax and for its refusal to legislate choices like seatbelt laws for adults. About 250-300 people have responded by moving to the Granite State since the project started a few years ago, said forum coordinator Chris Lawless.
"Many of the free staters don't believe in voting at all," said Lawless, a software analyst who moved east from California two and a half years ago. "Of those who do vote, it's probably about 90 percent for Ron Paul," he said. "Many free-staters are out canvasing on a daily basis and putting up signs." Lawless thinks the rousing reception Paul received at the Liberty Forum last February may have influenced his decision to take the plunge.
"It was only two and half weeks later he decided to run," he said. "The clip of him speaking at the forum has been on YouTube tens of thusdands of times."
Paul and the Polls
Though Paul's speaking engagements have frequently drawn 300 to 500 cheering, sign-waving supporters in the Granite State and as many as 5,000 at a liberty rally in Philadelphia, he has yet to break into double-digits in any poll of likely voters in New Hampshire's Republican primary. While he has reached eight or nine percent in some polls, Dick Bennett of American Research Group in Manhcester found the Texas congressman at just two percent in a telephone survey of 600 likely Republican voters conducted November 26-29. New Hampshrie allows unaffilitated voters to vote in either primary and the ARG poll included both Republicans and independents who said they definitely planned to vote in the Republican primary, Bennett said. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, at 36 percent, was still leading all candidates in New Hampshire. Both his polling and focus group data found voters choosing pragmatism over ideology, Bennett said.
"For a likely Republic voter in the New Hampshire primary, the goal is to choose a Republican who will win the next election for them. (Paul) just doesn't fit that," the pollster said.
But some Paul supporters say many of those planning to vote for their candidate are either recent arrivals or people who haven't voted for years because they have been disgusted with both major parties. The pollsters may be missing them, they say.
"New Hampshire is a tough place to get people to answer the phone," said Bob Clegg, a Republican state senator from Hudson and a Mike Huckabee supporter. Caller ID makes it easier for people to avoid answering when pollsters call and a growing number of residents have only cell phones. "Those numbers are not available," Clegg said.
Longtime policital activists note that conventional wisdom about a canidate's "electability" is often proved wrong when voters go the polls. A number of "experts" in 1980 thought Ronald Reagan was too far on the right to win a national election. In 1996, New Hampshire GOP leaders like Sen. Judd Gregg and then-Governor Steve Merrill were assuring Granite State voters that Bob Dole was the man who could beat Bill Clinton.
"They all say 'Don't support a loser' and they keep picking losers," said Paul Ingbretson, a Republican state representative from Woodsville in northern New Hamshire. Ingbretson is convinced Paul can win the general election if he is the Republican nominee.
"He's conservative, which is what everyone pretends to be at election time. Only he really is," said Ingbretson. "The general public thinks ths Iraq war is crazy and he's the guy who said from the beginning, 'Don't go in.' How can he not beat the Democrats?"
"I look at these other folks and they're probably okay candidates," said former state Rep. Paul Mirski, a Paul supporter in the western New Hampshire town of Enfield. "But there's no soul to their message." Paul reminds Mirski of another GOP presidential candidate of 44 years ago.
"No one's come down the pike since Barry Goldwater who has spoken as Paul has to the essence of the Constituton," said the Enfield architect. Mirski, one of the most conservative House members during his time in the legislature, acknowledges that Paul has taken some stands sharply at odds with conventional Republican politics.
"What alarms most people on the right is his stand on Iraq," he said, referring to Paul's call for a prompt withdrawal. "I'm somewhat in the camp that says, 'If you broke it, you ought to fix it.'" Paul's antiwar stand makes him a little uncomfortable, Mirksi said, "but I don't know that he's wrong."
Other conservatives may find Paul's opposition to the federal war on drugs troubling, though Paul insists there is no authority in the Constitution for federal drug enforcement. He notes that when the nation imposed a prohibition on alcohol, constitutional amendments were required both to impose and repeal the ban. During an appearance at the University of New Hampshire in Durham last month, Paul, a physician, was asked about medical use of marijuana.
"I will absolutley never use the federal government to enforce a law against anybody using marijuana," the candidate replied, prompting a resounding applause from the audience of more than 300 students. Paul's call for the abolition of both the Federal Reserve Board and the Internal Revenue Service also draws applause on college campuses as well as among older audiences. An OB-GYN who has delivered more than 4,000 babies, Paul also has considerable appeal to pro-life voters and has sponsored a bill in Congress declaring that life begins at conception.
"I'm a science major and from what I've learned, there is no doubting life begins at conception," said Dan Perrinez, an Etna, NH resident and a junior at UNH. "I feel I can relate to (Paul) as a fellow man of truth and science," he said.
Opposing Big Government
Paul supporters generally like the fact that the man called "Dr. No" has consistently opposed plans to expand the power and influence of the federal government. That stand seems especially popular when it comes to education.
"We were flying the UN flag higher than the U.S. flag," retired schoolteacher Jane Aitken of Bedford said about the school in Massachusetts where she had taught. "Their philosophy is the kids are the boss, they tell you what to do." Federally supported programs in the schools frequently promote the idea of world government, said Aitken, who likes Paul for his opposition to international treaties and trade agreements that undermine U.S. sovereignty. These days she drives her pickup truck to Republican gatherings around the state, where she hands out literature and campaign signs for Paul. "I've been waiting for years for a candidate like him," she said.
Mike Faiella is another retired schoolteacher who opposes what he calls the "one size fits all approach" in education. "I saw the federal government move in and take over the schools with things like the No Child Left Behind Act and before that, with Goals 2000," said Faiella, the New Hampshire Coalition Organizer for the Paul campaign. A father of three homeschooled children, Faiella has been a Republican from the Goldwater days of his youth.
"I felt betrayed by a lot of the positions the Republican Party has taken in the last few years — amnesty for illegals, centralizing power in Washinton, the PATRIOT Act." Faiella said he had been following Paul's career for years and was delighted when the Texas congressman threw his hat into the presidential ring. "I was going to work for him no matter what," he said.
So was Rich Laplante, a 57-year-old software engineer in Merrimack who voted for Ron Paul when the doctor was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988. "I've been a Paul supporter for 20 years," he said. Laplante is working on a fund-raising effort to pay for a blimp to advertise the Paul campaign by flying over the Boston Tea Party rally in Boston on Sunday, December 16, and to fly over New Hampshire from then until the primary, though inclement weather has forced the blimp south for a time. He is also working with volunteers canvassing in the Nashua area.
"When we started, nobody we talked to had heard of Ron Paul," Laplante said. "That's changed." Many are receptive to the candidate's positions, he said. Among those who are not, there are two common objections.
"Either they're for the (Iraq) war." said Laplante, "or they think that because he's a good man who wants to do everything that's right, he can't possibly win." The "can't win" argument is raised less these days that it was a few months ago, he said, "but I still hear that more than I'd like to."
"The majority of people are very undecided," said Linda Lagana, a Merrimack mother of two teenagers. "It's rare we run into somone who's firm on a candidate." Her support of Paul is based "on the man's honesty and integrity," she said. "On monetary policy and foreign policy, he's right on. That resonates big with me."
As Lawless sees it, the big government and military interventionist policies pursued by both Republicans and Democrats have left millions of Americans looking for a cure to the nation's ills. And Dr. Paul is making house calls in New Hampshire.
"The country is sick," said Lawless. "We need a doctor."
Jack Kenny is a free-lance writer who has been living in New Hampshire since the (now deceased) Old Man of the Mountain was the new kid on the molehill. He is either a paleolithic conservative or a born-again libertarian, who first arrived in the Granite State 36 years ago to volunteer in the presidential primary campaign of Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon, the semi-honorable "incrumbent." (We were not entirely successful.) He was for Pat Buchanan in '92 and '96, has voted for Howard Phillips and is a survivor of the somewhat premature Goldwater Victory Rally at Madison Square Garden in October of 1964. Photo courtesy of Susan Laughlin.