|Ron Paul stands apart because of his honesty and humility, according to supporters [Thomas Alexander/Al Jazeera]
Nashua, New Hampshire - At his first appearance in New Hampshire since finishing in third place in the Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul was pumped up.
Paul is not a mainstream Republican presidential candidate - and he wants you to know it. On a chilly Friday the 76-year-old Texas congressman slightly stooped as he addressed several hundred people at a crowded airport hangar in Nashua, seemingly revelling in playing the maverick.
"They call us dangerous," he exclaimed, referring to his opponents as his accusers. "And in a way we are - to their empire."
He was introduced by his son, Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, who referred to the Republican Party as "an empty vessel - unless we imbue it with values".
Paul fils also pointed out that US federal debt - a target of both Pauls - skyrocketed in the 2000s when both a Republican president (George W Bush) and a Republican congress were in office.
The young, energetic crowd - many of whom had travelled from nearby states to see Paul - frequently burst into applause and chants. Audience members held signs reading, "Liberty - Too Big To Fail" and "End the Fed", referring to the United States' central banking system. One young man even had a Ron Paul tattoo on his arm.
His politics may be quite different from those of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, but Ron Paul's demeanour, iconoclasm and popularity with young voters remind one of Nader's presidential run in 2000.
Towards the beginning of the Nashua rally, Paul - who works as an OB/GYN between sessions of Congress - blasted politicians who "want to run our lives, police the world, spend us into bankruptcy". And, for much of his speech, he discussed exactly those topics: war, civil liberties and economic policy.
"[Leaders need to] understand that minding our own business is a much better way to get along with people than dropping bombs on them."
- Ron Paul, Republican presidential candidate
An outspoken opponent of military intervention, Paul told the crowd that US leaders need to "understand that minding our own business is a much better way to get along with people than dropping bombs on them".
Paul eschews the term "isolationist", instead preferring to call himself a "non-interventionist" - and touts the fact that more US soldiers have contributed to his campaign than any of his Republican opponents.
On civil liberties, Paul riffed on Benjamin Franklin's famous quote, saying: "We as Americans should never give up any liberty on the pretence that we're going to have more security."
He attacked the Obama administration's assertion that it had the right to assassinate US citizens overseas whom it believes are active in terrorist organisations. (In September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born cleric living in Yemen, was targeted and killed in a US drone strike.)
"It is especially important that you try the bad guys," said Paul. "Why are we getting so afraid of capturing people, and arresting them, and giving them proper rights?"
The National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Obama in December 2011, was another of Paul's targets. Paul said the law enables the US military to indefinitely detain US citizens - without access to a lawyer.
While Paul's positions on foreign policy and civil liberties endear him to some liberals, his economic policies often don't. Paul proposes cutting US $1tn from the federal budget in his first year in office, lowering corporate taxes and eliminating the income tax entirely. Workers in the US have "the right to keep the fruits of all [their] labours", said Paul.
Monetary policy is another key interest of Paul's. In Nashua he called for "sound money", arguing that under the US Constitution only gold - or silver-backed currency is legal - a position that federal courts have disagreed within the past.
David Murotake, a member of the Nashua school board, liked Paul's anti-federalist stances. "The Constitution says nothing about federal involvement in education," explained Murotake, who said that the federal Department of Education used heavy-handed tactics with local school districts.
He plans on voting for Paul because "I believe - and Dr Paul believes - that unconstitutionally created laws should be repealed".
Scott Carlson voted for Ron Paul 24 years ago, when he ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988. Now, Carlson - a computer science and history teacher living in Manchester - plans on voting for him again, citing Paul's opposition to NDAA and the Stop Online Piracy Act, which Paul said would reduce citizens' privacy.
When asked why they supported Ron Paul, the common factor among many audience members was that they saw him as "honest" and "humble". He "puts it all out there", said Chris Fleming of Manchester.
And Sean Purser, a Massachusetts resident, said Paul had "gotten a lot better" at speechmaking since his last presidential campaign in 2008.
At a brief press conference after the rally, Paul was asked about an advertisement made by a group named "New Hampshire Liberty 4 Paul", referring to former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as a "Manchurian candidate".
The video shows Huntsman with his adopted Chinese daughter, speaking Chinese, and even depicts him as a Maoist soldier, darkly suggesting that Huntsman's loyalties might lie elsewhere.
Paul said he hadn't seen the ad, and that the group that released it is unaffiliated with his campaign. On Friday the Paul campaign issued a press statement reading in part, "Dr Paul is a proud father and grandfather and believes people's families should be out of bounds in politics."
Huntsman is polling poorly nationwide, but in New Hampshire about nine per cent of Republican primary voters say they support him - compared with about 20 per cent for Paul.
Follow Sam Bollier on Twitter: @SamBollier
Source: Al Jazeera