Politics

Ron Paul aims to challenge frontrunners in New Hampshire primary

MILFORD, N.H. - With recent polls showing Texas Representative Ron Paul vaulting into second place in the Republican presidential race in Iowa, Paul said he believes he is “peaking at the right time.”

“It means the momentum’s building up,” Paul said. “A lot of the candidates so far in this past year would come and go. Ours has been very, very steady growth. In this last week or two, there was a sudden extra growth.”

Recent polls put Paul behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. In New Hampshire, Paul is holding a strong third-place position, behind Romney and Gingrich.

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Paul, speaking to reporters outside Homestead Grocery and Deli in Amherst, N.H., said he believes he can win the nomination. Paul said he is not overly focused on the polls, but on the first nominating contests – the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary. “If you do extremely well or win those, that might dampen that propaganda about ‘he can’t win, he can’t win,’ ” Paul said. “They don’t want me to win…because they’re fearful I’d take on the special interests.”

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Paul has been creating attack ads and web videos charging Gingrich with “serial hypocrisy” for switching his position on issues, and painting him as a Washington insider who got rich by “selling access.” But after Gingrich urged candidates to remain positive, Paul rejected the charge that his campaign has gone negative. “If the media won’t talk about a person’s record, the candidates have a responsibility to point out his position used to be this,” Paul said. “I don’t consider that negative.”

Meanwhile, Paul is continuing the retail politics that have defined his campaign – holding New Hampshire town halls and spending the morning visiting businesses in Amherst and Milford and answering voters’ questions.

“I’m like a groupie,” Karl Kuffner, a retired clinic director from Amherst, told Paul. “You’re getting elected, but when you get in there look at the climate thing. We’re the only country that doesn’t believe in climate change.”

“I look at it already,” Paul responded. “There’s a lot of conflicting reports.”

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John O’Brien, a former Herman Cain volunteer who works in sales, told Paul he was concerned about Paul’s apparent lack of concern about Iran developing nuclear weapons. Paul said he was more worried about propaganda that would lead to another military conflict.

O’Brien pressed, “What about economic sanctions?” He pointed to comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Paul said sanctions, boycotts, and blockades are “acts of war.” He dismissed Ahmadinejad’s comments. “He talked about removing the regime from the pages of history, which is sort of like let’s get rid of Obama’s administration,” Paul said.

A woman asked Paul about his stance on health care. “Best case, the federal government would be out if it,” Paul responded, while acknowledging that people who depend on government would need to be cared for during a transition period.

Paul moved steadily around the shops surrounding the Milford oval. In Souhegan Cycleworks, he took a break from signing books to scrawl his name with a black Sharpie on the front of a customer’s ski. “That’s my first one,” he said.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.