WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- As Ron Paul falls behind Mitt Romney in the polls, he is attempting to win over moderates and undecided voters, telling them he can create the coalitions needed to cut the deficit and change the government's priorities.
Rep. Paul (R-Texas) frequently tells likely voters he can't win in Iowa next week, or do what he wants to as president, without their support, whether Republican, independent or Democrat. At campaign events, his team points out to voters that they can register as Republicans at the door to caucus for Paul, regardless of previous party affiliations. And on a Wednesday campaign stop at a West Des Moines insurance company, GuideOne, Paul said he believes he can unite both parties in the election and in Congress.
"It's going to be more than me that it takes to" cut $1 trillion from the budget, he added. "If I'm to be elected, it's going to be because the people heard this message. ... There's a lot of members of Congress that aren't locked in to having very strong beliefs about anything. If they get the message that you want them to start cutting back and the momentum builds with an election, yes, this is going to go our way."
Though Paul's numbers improved among Iowa voters in a CNN/Time poll released Wednesday, Paul also placed second to former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, instead of the first-place position he has held in the "first in the nation" caucus state. In Paul's appearance at GuideOne, which was open only to employees of the company and their family members rather than his usual gatherings of committed supporters, he repeatedly said that his main principle, promoting freedom, could appeal to both sides of the aisle.
"This whole issue of freedom beings people together," he said. "I think that's what excites me about this message."
Some of those in attendance said they were compelled by what Paul said he could do to bring both sides together to get things done.
Steve Scott, a 45-year-old who works in information technology for the company, said after Paul's speech that the candidate piqued his interest, although he is still not sure who he will support next week. Scott considers himself a "pragmatic independent" -- he supported Democrats John Edwards, then Hillary Clinton in 2008, before eventually voting for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
"He made a very good impression on me today," Scott said, adding that Paul's statements about appealing to the left and right "definitely resonated with me."
Tammie Icatar, 62, said she planned to support Paul even though she voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Icatar, whose husband, Tom, works for GuideOne, is a long-time Republican but said she generally votes for who she thinks is best rather than picking based on party.
She said she understands that Paul can't do everything right away, "especially if you've got that many family members you have to deal with there in Congress," but she thinks he has the ability to make major changes.
Tom Icatar, who generally votes Democrat, said if Paul does not win the Republican nomination, they hope he will run as an independent. He said Paul can appeal "a lot of people" and could possibly do well as an independent, if it goes that way.
"If you like at his record and what he talks about, it's not a Republican position, it's not a Democratic position, he's viewing it more from an economic and Constitutional position," Tom Icatar said. "He's asking people, let's go back to the basics."