By show of rapid-fire applause during every pause and the sheer number standing shoulder to shoulder in Carson's Comma Coffee on Monday afternoon, Dr. Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Lake Jackson, Texas, appealed to the crowd's libertarian sensibilities.
Paul took seemingly unscripted and random questions from the audience of 200-plus for 30 minutes, before emerging onto Carson Street to meet and greet onlookers, passersby and campaign supporters.
His campaign, with the benefit of hindsight, may give pols a blueprint for how to run for office using the Internet as one's primary communication tool.
His stop in Carson drew Northern Nevadans of all political stripes - many of whom were simply on hand to see the man himself after researching his positions online.
"I think for those of us who care to read up about issues - and there are a lot of us - that if people use the Internet, if they actually care about what's going on; if they pay attention, Ron Paul makes a lot of sense," said James Booth, of Sparks, who said he left work in Carson early Monday to catch the Congressman with his boss. "I think (Paul) reflects a lot of Nevadans' values. I think I speak for a lot of Nevadans when I say we're the last bastion of real freedom in the U.S. There's a lot of things here that are still pretty Wild West."
The Republican, who is against the Iraq war but in favor of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, opposes the Patriot Act, gun control and the Federal Reserve.
Monday, he answered questions mostly pertaining to domestic issues. Here's a sampling of his sentiments:
• On immigration: "The first thing we have to do - we have to have border guards. There is a premise of amnesty - free medical care, free education, food stamps ... I want to eliminate that; eliminate this idea that all you have to do is step across the border and have a baby to become a citizen."
• On the Internet: "The Internet has been a foundation for this campaign."
• On Washington "insiders:" "I don't believe the leadership in Washington - Republican or Democrat - care about what your interests are. They care about the North American union."
• On taxation: "I just want to get rid of enough government so you don't need the income tax."
• On big government: "The problem is spending the hundreds of billions of dollars we're spending ... The government was too big 10 years ago."
Even audience members who confessed they still were on the fence with Paul, or not convinced he could be anything more than a "fringe" candidate, were effusive after seeing the man in the flesh.
"He's got good ideas that will hopefully translate even if he doesn't get (nominated)," said Rebecca Schalla, of Stagecoach. "He was an engaging speaker."
Schalla, who was late for the door after Dr. Paul spoke, was accompanied by her husband Dan.
The reason for their hurry?
"We're going to go see Obama in a couple hours," Dan said.
That two major candidates from opposite political spectrums could be seen in Carson in the same day seemed not to impress the Schallas that much.
"It's good to see people in town, but it is campaign season," Dan said.
"He's a Democrat and voting Republican - I think," Rebecca said. "I'm a Republican and I don't know how I'm voting, but I'm excited to see Obama.
"We're sort of a bipolar political couple."
Nearly half the audience in attendance to see Dr. Paul appeared to be barely old enough to vote in November. One of the Gen Y audience members was skull-cap and blazer-clad Patrick Phillips, who came from San Francisco to see the candidate stump.
"I'm always impressed by him," Phillips said. "Sadly, his honesty and his lack of saying something clever for the cameras may not play to everyone. He's someone a lot of people might not get into, but anyone who's thoughtful may end up supporting him."
Admitting Paul may not be able to overcome early caucus and primary losses in New Hampshire and Iowa, supporter Booth said he still feels people should do their research, "ignore the mass media" and think about "fighting for what they believe."
"He may not get the nomination, but that's not the point," he said. "If a bear backs you into a corner, are you going to sit there and let it eat you? Or are you going to put up a fight and punch it in the nose?"
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.