Ron Paul was in Anchorage Sunday evening. He spoke to an overflow crowd of 1,200 in a third floor ballroom of the Dena'ina Center. Most of those in attendance were under 40 and casually if not roughly dressed. Some young couples brought small children.
Paul, casually dressed himself in a bright red shirt, was far better alone at the lectern than he has been in debate with other Republican presidential candidates. The debate format left Paul little time to develop his beliefs -- and he was frequently marginalized by moderators who wanted to highlight the contrast between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum and Romney.
I used the word "beliefs" for a reason. Ron Paul doesn't have ideas; he has unshakable beliefs -- about the economy, the monetary system and foreign policy -- that, as The New York Times pointed out, have rarely changed since he was a college student more than 50 years ago.
Paul's strength is his ability to use powerful words -- for example, liberty, freedom, independence -- in a relaxed, at times intimate, manner. Some people find this seductive, especially combined with Paul's cookbook approach to governance. Just follow his simple directions and you can restore the flourishing republic that existed before big government made Lady Liberty a twisted sister.
Get rid of the federal reserve system. Return to the gold standard. Bring our troops home from foreign wars. Eliminate meddling bureaucrats. Presto -- you have the nation the Founding Fathers envisioned. And Paul can put across this message without sounding angry. Exasperated at times, yes, but not boiling like Rick Santorum.
Paul pledged to reduced the federal budget by a trillion dollars if elected. He gave no indication that this might endanger the national economy -- or that thousands of Americans would lose their jobs as a result.
Ron Paul makes governing the United States seem easy. Governing this country has never been easy, not even for Washington, Adams or Jefferson, all three of whom faced bitter opposition to their policies.
Paul didn't have a specific Alaska message for Anchorage. He didn't talk about opening ANWR or building a gas line. He did not pander. This was refreshing.
Unlike Mitt Romney, he didn't promise he would create jobs -- he said he would leave that to Americans in the marketplace.
"The American people are finally fed up," Paul said. But his audience didn't seem so much fed up as excited to see a presidential candidate a few feet away who reflects their beliefs. For the moment, a 76-year-old congressman had star power, and the audience roared its approval.
"It's your money, isn't it?" Ron Paul likes to say. "And who knows how to spend it better, you or the government?"
Believe me, in Anchorage that's a line that will draw a standing ovation every time, and nobody delivers it better than Ron Paul.
Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Daily News. E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.