MANCHESTER, N.H. — Shut out of a GOP presidential candidate forum sponsored by Fox News, Ron Paul staged his own televised town hall meeting today in which he fielded questions from undecided voters two days before the key primary election here.
The Lake Jackson Republican congressman faced a range of questions from the audience of about 100 people in the public access television station several miles from where four other presidential contenders were to later participate in the Fox debate.
Paul responded to one participant who asked why he should chose the libertarian-leaning Texan over more mainstream GOP contenders such as Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, saying he had been more consistent in his views than his rivals.
“They are seen as flip-floppers,” Paul said. “People look at my record and say he’s a stick-to-his guns guy.”
One voter noted that Paul was running hard-hitting ads that pledged a crackdown on illegal immigration. He suggested that the campaign promise would entail a beefed up federal bureaucracy and would be inconsistent with Paul’s philosophy of reduced government.
Paul said his plan would not mean more federal employees, but rather would bring home border guards now serving in Iraq.
Asked about his views on the Arab Israeli conflict, Paul suggested that he had been unfairly portrayed as anti-Semitic because he opposed U.S. aid to Israel. The congressman said he would also block foreign aid to Arab countries, which would be to Israel’s benefit.
The one-hour forum was choreographed to portray Paul in a positive light. He was introduced and questioned by his campaign chairman, Kent Snyder.
On the side of the studio sat his supporters, who clapped enthusiastically after each of his answers.
At times Paul took a professorial approach, lecturing the crowd on the history of monetary policy and his view that abandoning the gold standard was a critical mistake.
The decision by Fox to limit participation in the forum infuriated Paul supporters and even drew the ire of the New Hampshire Republican Party, which withdrew its sponsorship of the event.
Fox had invited Republican candidates Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Fred Thompson to the forum, but excluded Paul as well as California congressman Duncan Hunter.
Paul protested, arguing that he raised $20 million in the last quarter of 2007, almost the same amount as Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, a Research 2000 poll published in the Concord Monitor released Sunday showed Paul garnering 7 percent of the vote, besting Thompson and only 1 point behind Giuliani in the state.
Throughout the day Paul was accompanied by Barry Goldwater, Jr., the son of the late Arizona GOP senator who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1964.