Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul told voters Friday in high-stakes New Hampshire that the US must transform its foreign policy to cut back on aid, military bases and combat missions.
“I am sick and tired of foreign welfare,” said Paul, 76, a medical doctor who has delivered more than 4,000 babies and who served as a flight surgeon in the US Air Force.
He added: “Stop these senseless wars so we can provide health care for people at home.”
Declaring government spending “is the problem,” Paul vowed to cut $1 trillion from the budget in the first year if he were elected president.
Paul spoke at a packed town hall on Veterans Day, vowing to stop federal bailouts, allow more US energy development and encourage American businesses to “come back” from China and elsewhere through business-friendly tax policies.
“We chase our businesses away,” Paul said.
He also offered a full-throated defense for legalizing marijuana at the federal level.
“Drugs are dangerous, but the war on drugs is much more dangerous,” he said, adding that prescription drugs “are killing more people than the illegal drugs.”
In just over eight weeks, on January 10, New Hampshire Republicans will cast votes in the first primary contest in the multi-state march that will end with the picking of a nominee to challenge President Barack Obama one year from now.
Iowa voters will gather one week earlier, on January 3, for a caucus, which tends to attract activists and conservatives rather than the broader range of voters that emerge for the more traditional type of voting in primaries.
The likely best-case scenario for Paul would be to score an upset victory in Iowa — he is in third place now, behind former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain in first place and businessman Mitt Romney, according to an average of recent polls published by Real Clear Politics — and then finish in second in New Hampshire, where Romney is heavily favored.
That could prompt conservatives to give him a fresh look, which so far they have failed to do in anywhere near large enough numbers to make him their alternative choice to Romney.
Paul said “we’re doing quite well” in Iowa and New Hampshire. His opting to dramatically scale back US involvement in solving foreign problems resonated with undecided voter Kristen Martin, 43, a consultant from Salem.
“I want less government and less spending and for us to get out of all these wars,” Martin said, adding that she was “open” to voting for Paul after hearing him in person.
Paul is similar to his Republican rivals on key fiscal matters, preaching lower taxes, cuts in federal spending and repeal of Obama’s controversial health care law.
The end of the longtime Texas congressman’s two-day campaign swing in New Hampshire coincided with the release of a new national poll showing Republican party votes are still up for grabs.
The CBS News poll found 17 percent of Republican primary voters say they are undecided and 72 percent believe it is too early for them to have firmly settled on a candidate.
But the poll underscored Paul’s challenge: it found Cain in the lead at 18 percent, followed by establishment favorite Romney and former US House speaker Newt Gingrich tied at 15 percent.
Meanwhile, Paul got only five percent in the CBS national poll. In New Hampshire, he is in third place, at 11.3 percent, behind leader Romney and Cain, according to an average of recent polls published by Real Clear Politics.
Paul has aired four TV ads in New Hampshire to try to turn heads, but Linda Fowler, a politics expert at Dartmouth College, said even if Paul did better than polls suggest in Iowa and New Hampshire, she cannot see him having a strong enough national organization to build on his early victories.