CARROLL, Ia. — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul says the country is finally catching up to his brand of politics and economic thinking.
For three decades, the libertarian-leaning Texan has preached limited government, a smaller role not only domestically in the form of lower taxes but also abroad, with a less adventurous foreign policy.
“Right now your biggest threat comes from your own government,” Paul said.
More than 100 people turned out Saturday morning in Carroll to hear Paul speak at Santa Maria Winery. Paul delivered opening remarks and then turned the event into a town-hall-style meeting, fielding audience questions.
Paul finished third at 12 percent behind businessman Herman Cain (23 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (22 percent) in a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucus-goers released Sunday.
On Saturday, Paul, a former Libertarian Party White House candidate, said he’s in a strong position as a Republican in the 2012 field and dismissed any speculation of a third-party candidacy.
“I have no intentions of running in a third party,” Paul said.
In his remarks Paul said that government reaction to crisis should to be pull back, grow smaller and allow free will and the marketplace to work.
“With each crisis it seems like the government grows,” Paul said. “It just has led to all this debt and all these problems we’ve had.”
Paul called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that the United States has been involved in Afghanistan twice as long as the duration of World War II. The two wars are costing the United States $4 billion a month, he said.
Removal of troops would not only correct an entry into the conflicts on what Paul called “false pretense,” but also spur the American economy.
America’s largest defense concern now should be the nation’s economy, the Texan said.
“If we’re in the wrong places at the wrong time, it doesn’t serve our defense,” Paul said.
Paul also calls for cuts in military spending.
“How many weapons do we need?” he said. “Who is going to invade us?”
Paul said his foreign policy positioning should not be interpreted as isolationism. He would use diplomacy, not force, to advance U.S. interests.
“Using force doesn’t work and it’s very costly,” Paul said.
And Paul said he would be consistent.
“We were on the side of bin Laden,” he said. “We were on the side of Saddam Hussein.”
One audience member questioned Paul about farm subsidies. Paul noted that he has represented farming areas of Texas but opposes subsidies.
“I’ve not supported farm subsidies,” Paul said. “I think it distorts the marketplace.”
He added, “Subsidies tend to make people soft.”
Paul said Americans demonstrating now, either in the tea party movements or Occupy Wall Street groups, appear to break into two categories: people who are scared they won’t get their government handouts and those who are tired of paying for big government.
Paul said he is firmly in the latter category.
“To me, liberty is one clear package,” Paul said.