For a guy accused of being an isolationist, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul found himself surrounded by plenty of friends Sunday in Alaska's two largest cities.
The U.S. representative from Texas spoke to about 1,000 people at a Fairbanks hotel ballroom and followed that with at least 1,200 more packed into an Anchorage convention center as he poured out the message that America must stop misusing its military while putting its financial house in order.
Far more will be achieved with negotiation and trade than military options, he said, but U.S. policies are not going to change because he gives a persuasive speech.
"The reason why we will win the argument is that we won't be able to afford it," Paul said.
Paul is the only major GOP candidate to campaign ahead of Tuesday's Alaska Republican presidential preference poll where some delegates to the national convention will be picked.
He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that Alaska is fertile ground for his message of small government and freedom. That was enough to make a visit to the state a priority, he said.
In Anchorage, Paul said presidents from different parties have been elected but policies never change, including promises by Republicans to balance the budget.
"They don't do it when they get the chance," he said. "I want to change that."
He pledged to cut a trillion dollars his first year in office by bringing home troops, closing bases abroad and trimming "overseas welfare."
Paul touched on familiar themes, calling for an audit and eventually an end to the Federal Reserve. He said American cannot continue to enjoy prosperity by printing money to pay off debt borrowed to overspend. He said the country has seen virtually no economic growth in the last 10 years and questioned whether it has made progress from the recession. Unemployment statistics do not count people listed as disabled, he said, and the unemployment rate likely is closer to 22 percent, he said.
"This is why people don't feel good about the economy," he said.
But Paul continually returned to the theme that America's problem are tied to performing acts that are unconstitutional or unlawful, such as fighting wars without a declaration of war, and acting as the world's policeman. Imagine the reaction, he said, if another country used a drone on U.S. soil to kill a person it said was one of its enemies.
"We wouldn't take that lightly," Paul said. "One thing is, there wouldn't bipartisanship. The whole country would want to be practicing their Second Amendment rights."
Wars the last 10 years have added $4 trillion to the national debt, he said.
"Just think if we had not gone to war and had accepted the conditions of the Constitution with a declaration," he said. "We wouldn't have fought any of those wars. We would have been $4 trillion richer. Don't you think that would have helped all of us, if that money had been spent here?"
Talking with the enemy now, he said, brands a U.S. leader as a wimp even if the other country does not have the nuclear option. As a military draftee in 1962, Paul said, he was happy that President Kennedy negotiated with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis.
"I think that is a better way to go," he said.