Why can't Ron Paul get any respect?

Paul’s meandering speeches and homespun mien are a stark juxtaposition with the bumper-sticker rhetoric common on the campaign trail, and they prompt some people to write him off. But the stylistic differences also play to his advantage. In a world of artifice he has none, and voters sick of political chameleons are drawn to that. “I respect the man for being the lone dog in the fight for liberty,” says Donna Trzaski, who voted for John McCain in 2008 but recently read Paul’s book The Revolution: A Manifesto and drove 150 from her hometown of Coventry, Conn., to Concord on a whim, two pre-teen daughers in tow, to catch a glimpse of Paul in person.

It’s well-documented how fervently Paul’s fan club believes in him. But when you talk to people seeing the congressman for the first time, a common theme is his humility, the refreshing absence of canned rhetoric or demagoguery and the fully formed policy platform. Politicians tend to pummel rivals without positing alternatives. Paul has a unified theory of how the world works, kooky as it may seem to some. “He isn’t about aggrandizing his own ego,” says Karen Bachelder, a New Hampshire sales executive and registered independent who voted for Obama in 2008 but isn’t sure if she will again. Bachelder showed up at a pair of Paul’s events in Concord, quietly scribbling notes and coming away impressed. “Right or wrong, he’s trying to find a solution.”

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