February 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Rand Paul seeks to rally ‘leave me alone’ coalition
Rand Paul speaks to supporters at a rally in Des Moines (Photo by Chris Johnson).

Rand Paul speaks to supporters at a rally in Des Moines. (Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

DES MOINES, Iowa — With hours remaining before Iowans head to their caucuses, Rand Paul sought to rally what he called the “leave me alone” coalition to claim an unlikely win in the state.

“When I look at this movement, I have nothing but optimism for the future,” Paul said. “The amazing thing is throughout history man has dominated man with tyranny, but the experiment of freedom, the experiment of limited government, the government of a government restrained by a Constitution, that’s new in history. But you don’t get it if you don’t fight for it. We got to keep fighting against the impulse of something for nothing.”

At he approached the front of the crowd, which consisted largely of youth, at his campaign headquarters in Iowa, they chanted, “President Paul! President Paul!”

The rally may be a swan song for Paul. A poll published by Quinnipiac University found the candidate had 4 percent of support among likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers. Donald Trump dominated the group of Republican candidates with 31 percent.

Despite a single-digit showing in the polls, Paul said, “there’s a chance we can win,” and that his success would depend on the turnout for the caucuses. A supporter said 10,000 college students have pledged to caucus and the campaign has listed 1.2 million potential voters.

The libertarian is an opponent of same-sex marriage and in 2013 voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but no issues related to the LGBT community came up during the rally.

Instead, Paul decried government collection of personal data, called for a new commitment to the war on poverty and dismissed terrorism, which he said is conducted by “weak people” who can only win if others become fearful.

The only candidate Paul named was Bernard Sanders, whom the Republican said was offering unreasonable plans by proposing to extend health care and college education.

“Uncle Bernie’s offering thousands of people, millions of people something for nothing,” Paul said. “But there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Compared to the rallies for Hillary Clinton and Sanders, the rally for Paul was held in a small venue. Paul spoke for five minutes, unlike Clinton who delivered a significantly longer speech at her rally on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

Introducing Paul at the rally was his father, former member of Congress and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, as well as Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who called himself “the biggest Ron Paul-Rand Paul fan boy there is.”

At the conclusion of the rally, Paul choked up when he recalled the story of a service member who had lost limbs in battle, saying it would be shameful if liberty at home for which he fought was lost.

“If we move forward, remember that this battle is bigger than all of us,” Paul said. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and as you take off and go home, drive carefully.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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