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Paul 'Steps Up' In New Hampshire

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

The following piece was produced by the Huffington Post's OffTheBus.

Six months ago, a lot of New Hampshire folks were saying they liked Ron Paul but didn't really think he had a chance to win. With Thursday's release of the St. Anselm's Poll showing Paul on the rise at 7.4%, it's clear those doubts are beginning to fade.

Poll author Dr. Mike Dupre, senior fellow at St. Anselm's Institute of Politics, discussed results with colleagues, students, and media Thursday. Dupre said this is the point in the race at which polls in early primary states start to become more important than the national polls, and he said Paul's margin over national media darling Fred Thompson (4.6%) only confirms what NH motorists can see with their own eyes.

The number of signs on private property is a key indicator of a campaign's true strength, Dupre told students. "You see Ron Paul signs on people's property," he observed. "You don't see Fred Thompson signs."

Paul supporters were optimistic even before these most recent poll results were announced, with some drawing comparisons to Pat Buchanan's upset victory in New Hampshire's 1996 primary.

State Representative Paul Ingbretson has endorsed Paul and is bullish on his chances. The Haverhill Republican said a 2nd or 3rd place finish in New Hampshire would energize the campaign nationwide, but he dares to hope voters will make Paul a New Hampshire winner. "I think what happened with Pat Buchanan is even more likely to happen now," he said.

Spirits were high Tuesday when Paul visited the state for the opening of his Concord campaign office. The spry 72-year-old doctor stepped up onto a folding chair to address over 100 supporters who had crowded into the room.

As usual, Paul came across as modest and sincerely delighted to see such support for the ideas he represents. "I don't think they're ever going to stop the freedom movement," he told supporters. "I think it's out now -- I think the secret is out."

Paul railed against the increased secrecy in government and lamented reductions in privacy and personal liberty. "I think, though, that the time is ripe for a reversal -- some people call that a revolution," he said to a roomful of cheers.

While some members of Paul's "Revolution" are new to politics, others have been following the maverick Texas Congressman's career for a long time, reading his articles and speeches on topics including foreign policy, the federal reserve system, and the Constitution.

One such supporter is Ingbretson, who has been aware of Paul for "about twenty years." Ingbretson says he's seen politicians come and go, but that Paul is truly unique. "He understands that the first principle of government is to maintain freedom," Ingbretson explained.

Merrimack resident Linda Lagana got her first glimpse of Paul "five or six years ago" when she saw him sharply interrogating Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan during a committee hearing on C-SPAN. This led her to further study of the U.S. monetary system and a deep appreciation for Dr. Paul.

"People would be outraged if they understood," she told me. "We're getting further and further in debt; the bankers are making all the money and the rest of us are losing the money."

Like many Paul supporters, Lagana was never particularly active in politics until getting involved with this campaign. Now she is one of the candidate's busiest volunteers, and she isn't alone. "I'm doing what thousands of people across the country are doing," she told me. "I am absolutely passionate about supporting this man!"

Paul's New Hampshire staff is eager to build on its successes. The campaign turned heads by raising $5 million in the third quarter, and now the fiscally responsible Congressman is beginning to invest his campaign treasure by hiring staff and running radio ads in early primary states. Television advertising will be just around the corner. "We're in great financial shape going into the time that matters," said Jared Chicoine, Paul's New Hampshire field director.

Dupre and his colleagues agreed that the Republican primary race is wide open in New Hampshire. In fact, 44% of New Hampshire voters are undeclared (independent) and may elect to vote in either party's primary. Among undeclared voters, the St. Anselm's poll showed that a full 40% had not decided which primary they intended to vote in.

These numbers set the stage for a race that is expected to be fluid right to the end. But do they really set the stage for a "Ron Paul Revolution" in New Hampshire? We simply won't know until the votes are counted, but one thing is clear: Paul isn't the only one who has been stepping up for freedom in the "Live Free or Die" state.

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