Synthia Ritz, of Angleton, Texas, was only 22 when Paul delivered the first of her five children. After 12 exhausting hours of labor, the usually-shy Ritz found herself repeating, “I love you Dr. Paul!” before planting a kiss on his face. Today, her kids are “horrified” by the thought of their mom smooching the libertarian warrior, but she insists the platonic affection was deserved.

“It sounds kind of silly, but I really loved him,” says Ritz, 60. “He was such a good doctor.”

The theme of Paul’s medical competence ran through every conversation we had with his former patients, and professional skill appeared to trump memories of his personality and even political ideology as the doctor’s most defining attribute. Interestingly, while none of his patients describe Paul as warm and fuzzy, many of them demonstrate the same die-hard devotion to his candidacy that characterizes the rest of his fan base—a result, perhaps, of having placed their lives in the hands of the candidate and finding him trustworthy.