About eight months after President Barack Obama at Ritchie Coliseum, a man who hopes to take his job discussed his own solutions with supporters at the same spot in College Park.
Republican presidential primary candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul spoke at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, organized in part by the University of Maryland chapter of Youth for Ron Paul.
The candidate, widely known as the libertarian option among the GOP field, touted his plan to cut $1 trillion from the budget in his first year if elected; cut foreign spending; repeal the Patriot Act and abolish the Federal Reserve—what he said facilitates big government and leads to artificially low interest rates.
The crowd often erupted into the chant, “End the Fed.”
“That will be one of the first things on my agenda,” Paul responded.
Paul also devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, an area that neither Obama nor former President George W. Bush handled well, he said.
He promised that as president he would bring troops home from Afghanistan, and that he would not take the United States into war without the stamp of approval from Congress.
"You go to war when it's declared. You don't go to war at the whim of a president or an administration,” he said.
“A lot more can be achieved in peace than in war,” he added.
Paul called for the restoration of liberty, and criticized government for too many mandates, including Obama’s healthcare legislation and laws against marijuana use.
“I think you ought to have a right to put into your own body whatever you want,” he said as the crowd erupted into one of the rowdiest standing ovations of the night.
But as a parent, grandparent and physician, he urged them to do it cautiously: “In a free society, you have to take care of yourself,” he said.
“I’m sick of the drug laws. I don’t do drugs but I still don’t want to see innocent people locked up,” said Ryan Geelhaar, 19, after the town hall meeting. He’s a student at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville.
Paul also called for the repeal of Bush’s Patriot Act, which lowers restrictions on law enforcement agencies when investigating possible terrorist leads.
In getting rid of the act, Paul said he would be restoring the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which guards citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Paul supporters rallied even amidst new poll results from CNN that show both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich more than 10 points behind Rick Santorum.
According to the poll, six in 10 Republican or GOP-leaning independents who responded to the survey said it was time for Paul and Gingrich to drop out of the race.
But those polls mean nothing, supporters at Wednesday's rally said. Several blamed mainstream media for biased results in the CNN poll, and others.
“The industrial media is completely against Ron Paul for obvious reasons,” said Drew Kalocai of Ellicott City, as he waited near the front of the line that formed outside Ritchie Coliseum. “He doesn’t give them the red meat that both the Republican party does and the Democratic party does,” he said.
Paul made no mention of poll numbers during his speech; he also didn't bring up his Republican competitors, as Adam Adair of Elkton pointed out afterward.
“You didn’t even hear him talk about the other candidates. He really just talked about his ideas and the Constitution,” Adair said.
The town hall is one in a series of Paul rallies at campuses across the country. He’ll appear at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on Thursday.
Paul has succeeded in rallying support from young voters in many states, though they haven't all showed up at the polls in the droves.
“College students tend to be a little bit more politically aware of what’s going on,” said Max Coleman, recruitment director for the UMd. chapter of Youth for Ron Paul. “A lot of the people who are really politically aware of what’s going on in this world tend to get behind Ron Paul, because they know he’s the one that actually has a plan to solve their problems," he said.
With primary day coming up on Tuesday, Paul is the third GOP candidate to visit the state in the past week. in Baltimore County on March 21, and Gingrich visited .