ST. CHARLES — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul repeated his call for greater personal liberty and less government spending during stops in some of Missouri's most Republican-leaning areas on Saturday, hoping to rally support to his cause the week before the start of the state's caucuses.
Paul said the country's economy is suffering and that the U.S. needs more liberty while pledging to cut federal spending and endorsing tax changes. He said he wants to be a candidate who promotes liberty and that the country should turn away from a dependency on borrowing and spending.
"We have a right to our life, we have a right to our liberty, we have the right to own our property, and we have a right to get the government off our backs," Paul said.
He also called for bringing troops home and for a foreign policy approach that gets away from "interference, occupation and constant wars." Paul said the country's current posture toward national defense could make it less safe because of weariness over American military intervention.
Alyssa Allison, a 21-year-old from Festus who attends college in Illinois, was among roughly 2,000 cheering, sign-waving supporters who packed a basketball arena at Lindenwood University in St. Charles to hear Paul. She said she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 but thinks Paul could make the significant changes the country needs, including cutting government spending.
"We got to find some way to rectify that," Allison said.
Paul, a congressman from Texas, focused Saturday on rallying support in two Republican-heavy areas in Missouri, which will begin its presidential caucuses next week. After the speech in St. Charles, he headed to Hillcrest High School in Springfield for a Saturday evening rally.
The outer suburbs of St. Louis and the southwest corner of Missouri are two of the most reliably Republican parts of the state and will be important for presidential candidates hoping to mobilize supporters for Missouri's lengthy caucus process. Although local caucuses start next week, they will culminate with the selection of delegates at Republican meetings in April and June. In all, Missouri will award 52 delegates.
In early February Missouri held a nonbinding presidential primary that was won by former Sen. Rick Santorum. Paul claimed about 31,000 votes — or roughly 12 percent — in an election marked by light turnout. Speaking to reporters after the St. Charles rally, Paul said he believes he can do better in Missouri's caucuses.
"We'll shoot for 52 (delegates) and do our very best," Paul said.