DES MOINES, Iowa — One place where you might not expect Ron Paul’s libertarian message to resonate is with the religious conservatives who are such a powerful segment of the Iowa GOP base. But as I’ve talked in recent days to some of their leaders — as well as to Iowa voters — I’m getting some anecdotal evidence that it does, far more deeply than four years ago. A man I just saw putting up Paul campaign signs, for instance, is wearing a hat that says, “Jesus loves Darrel, John 3:16.”
At one of the Texas congressman’s rallies today, I met Mandie DeVries. It was hard to miss her at the event, which drew a largely male crowd, as Paul so
She was there with her husband, Matt, and all five of her daughters, aged 11 months to 9 years. Some of the girls were sporting temporary tattoos that read “Ron Paul Revolution.”
DeVries, 32, is from Ankeny, and works part-time at her Catholic church. And in fact, she had caucused in 2008 for Paul, though she had barely heard of him before a friend emailed her some videos of him speaking two weeks before the vote. Until then, DeVries said, she had been torn between former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ended up winning the caucuses, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who got the nomination.
DeVries said that she could never support a candidate who was not opposed to abortion, but Paul made her realize “I can’t afford to be a single-issue voter any more.”
She had voted for George W. Bush because “I figured if I could trust him on the life issue, I could trust him on war. War is a life issue.”
What’s more, she said, “I had never heard about the Federal Reserve [which Paul wants to do away with]. I had never really though about foreign policy [where Paul advocates a non-interventionist stance]. I thought you just had to trust your leaders.”
Not any more, obviously.
How many more church ladies are there like her? We will find out tomorrow night. But one of the issues worth watching closely is how deeply Paul cuts into constituencies that weren’t open to his message before. It will tell us not only what his prospects are in Iowa, but how much farther he is likely to go after that.
Karen Tumulty is a Washington Post political reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @KTumulty