Even though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has all but secured the Republican nomination for president, some Penn students expressed respect for Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s decision to remain in the race.
Paul, who has found support among young voters, said in an interview with CBS earlier this month that he is “trying to save the Republican Party from themselves.”
Penn political science professor John Lapinski, senior analyst of NBC News’ Elections Unit, argued that Paul’s presence in the race does have significance for the Republican Party.
“What Ron Paul is doing is that he’s bringing in new voters on the Republican side. In that sense, those voters are important voters,” Lapinski said. “One of the reasons that Ron Paul will have a voice is because the [eventual] nominee will want to keep his supporters.”
These new voters are often young voters.
Through the Super Tuesday primary elections last month, Paul and Romney were virtually tied for the most youth votes throughout the campaign, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Paul was well ahead of both Santorum, who dropped out of the race Tuesday, and Gingrich, who — like Paul — remains in the race despite overwhelming odds in Romney’s favor.
“[Paul’s] strategy has always been to preach a little bit more of a message that radical change is needed,” Lapinski said. “This is a message that appeals very much to young people.”
Several students said that Paul’s popularity among young voters comes from their disillusionment with politics.
College freshman Seth Koren, a candidate for alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, said he believed Paul generates support because “people are becoming disillusioned [and] they’re looking to alternatives.”
Part of Paul’s appeal, Wharton sophomore Lisa Felber said, is that he “is the only candidate that wants to give himself less power as president, and young people are generally disillusioned with greedy and power-hungry politicians.”
Some students also support Paul in part because of his criticism of the current level of public debt.
“Young voters see the amount of debt America is in and the amount of money being spent,” said College freshman and Daily Pennsylvanian staff member Allie Mayer. “Young voters are aware that the debt will be coming out of their paychecks in the next 20 years.”
Another dimension of Paul’s appeal is “his non-interventionist approach to international relations,” Lapinski said.
Paul opposes wars not directly related to American self-defense and advocates for significantly reduced foreign aid.
“Foreign aid makes other countries indebted to America so that America can basically take advantage of them,” Felber said.
Despite his popularity among young voters, the last time Paul won any delegates was in last month’s Hawaii caucuses, getting no more than 12 percent of the vote in any state since then.
Although Paul will most likely not receive the nomination, his goal to influence the Republican Party may not be far-fetched.
Lapinski predicted that Paul “will have a place in the Republican Convention to make some type of speech.”
Paul will hold a rally at the Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Sunday, April 22 in advance of the Pennsylvania primary two days later.
Senior staff writer Prameet Kumar contributed reporting.