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Paul supporters: 'We are all about one word - freedom'

On a cold Saturday morning a week before the Republican primary for president in South Carolina, the York County action for candidate Ron Paul - the wildcard by any measure in this race - had no candidate there. It had no TV cameras. It was just a bunch of people at a Rock Hill McDonald's restaurant near the Winthrop University campus.

A place with wireless Internet - the Ron Paul grapevine as central to Paul supporters as oxygen.

Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum attended events in Rock Hill this week in Rock Hill, and local political types and politicians from all over the place attended.

Mitt Romney, who leads the polls and may come to Rock Hill this week, often campaigns with Gov. Nikki Haley.

Paul supporters keep up on Facebook.

This quiet action had been going on for weeks and months, even years, through computers and cellphones - the Paul army's guns. Paul supporters are mainly younger, but not all, and mainly college-educated, but not all, united by one thing.

"We are all about one word - freedom," said Brandon Hall, 29, a Winthrop graduate and part-owner of the nearby Palmetto Family Pharmacy.

"Ron Paul respects what the founding of this country is about. Freedom, staying away from tyranny, using the Constitution not as a restraint to freedom, but as a guide, a map, to literally keep us free."

Some local Paul supporters had never even met before Saturday morning at the restaurant, where all prepared to canvass several Rock Hill neighborhoods with the intent to tell people that Ron Paul is not some cranky, wacky Texas libertarian. Paul supporters claim that other candidates - and the media - portray Paul as out of the mainstream for his stances from Iran to banking.

But clearly, some people are listening, and not just outside the mainstream. Late Friday, polls showed Paul's support continues to grow in South Carolina. A pair of polls Friday had Paul at 16 percent - another at 20 percent.

"Young people owe it to themselves to look at Ron Paul," said Mike Wallace Jr., a Paul campaign stalwart from Rock Hill who even travelled to Iowa to campaign for Paul. "How can a young person in South Carolina, conservative and freedom loving, Christian people just like me, not consider him closer to the America that young people want? A free America outside of big-government in our lives, that's what he wants, and that's what I want."

Paul supporter Everett Lozzi, a 21-year-old college student from North Carolina spending his free time helping campaign for Paul in South Carolina, put it bluntly: "Ron Paul believes in the Constitution all the time - not some of the time," said Lozzi. "Big government does not work for people."

Wallace, 26, who used to work in television news, said that he - along with so many others who support Paul - are frustrated Republicans who look at the other candidates and see big-spending, big-government politicians at times closer to Democrats.

"We are Republicans fed up with these other ways of doing things, other candidates who do not practice what we believe in - the freedoms of a free market, freedom of religion, freedom of the individual," Wallace said. "This country always surges, excels, when government is smallest, and people, individuals, achieve. Ron Paul is the one guy out there who says that, and has said it, his whole political life."

Candidate Ron Paul does not shy away from controversy: He would smash the Federal Reserve and has said for years the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that drained trillions from the economy were wrong and illegal. Another Paul supporter, 21-year-old Winthrop student Matthew Neal, said he supported Barack Obama in 2008 because Obama vowed to end the wars.

"Ron Paul is the only candidate to say the wars would end immediately," Neal said. "It is not unpatriotic to be against these wars."

Scott Hesterman, 51, describes himself as a "computer geek with two kids." Ron Paul, Hesterman said, "is the only candidate who believes that the federal government is far too large, far too intrusive. Ron Paul believes in freedom."

The Paul campaign locally has so far had no rallies, and may not have any before Saturday's primary, said Wallace and Lozzi with the campaign. The social media of Facebook, Twitter, Web sites - that's how these fast-paced, computer- and cellphone-based people operate much of their campaigning.

There has been plenty of old-fashioned walking, too. Miles and miles of walking. The faithful claim to see an open-mindedness among Republican voters.

"We have canvassed Fort Mill, Lake Wylie, Clover, much of Rock Hill, and what we find is people are willing to listen," Wallace said. "When people hear about Ron Paul, they realize he is not the man they see on television or in other media. He's a man who believes in freedom - period."

The bulk of the Paul supporters are younger people younger than 30. Paul was tops in both Iowa and New Hampshire among those voters.

"The future of the Republican Party - and the country," is how Hall put it. "That is us. We are tired of establishment Republicans."

Yet the Republican primary Saturday is not just younger voters. It is unclear how well Paul will do among establishment Republicans and conservative Christian voters - some describe a portion of them as "evangelicals" - that are a huge faction in South Carolina Republican politics.

"What I say to that is Ron Paul is from Texas, and he is an evangelical Christian," Wallace said. "He is not unlike people around here. I am one of them. Working-class people."

Wallace, walking door-to-door with Hall the pharmacy owner and Neal the Winthrop student, said the Paul campaign has youth on its side. The push to Saturday's primary will focus less on canvassing door-to-door, though, and use cellular telephone calls and social media.

"Some could call this a 'revolt" against the establishment of Republican politics by Paul supporters like me, and I guess that is true," said Wallace.

"When you believe in something - freedom - you have to be dedicated. Ron Paul is dedicated to freedom. So are we."