In interviews, Paul's young supporters say they fear a bleak future of joblessness, steep college loan payments, pandering politicians and a government made sluggish by debt. Paul's pledge to adhere to the Constitution and shrink government appeals to many young voters looking to get back to basics, as does his promise to focus on problems at home.
"We're in such a crisis right now we should focus on us, not choose which country we aid and which country we invade next," said Nick Wright, a 23-year old volunteer at a Paul campaign event in Meredith, N.H.
Jeff Popek, of Meredith, said he believes Paul's plan to slash taxes would spur job creation.
"A lot of us are graduating with a lot of college debt and we can't pay for it unless we get jobs," the 18-year old said.
Many of Paul's younger supporters say they believe the government is overly intrusive and encroaching on civil liberties. They like his pledge to overturn the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to allow law enforcement greater access to people's email, telephone and other records.
The heavily wired generation of younger voters also responds to Paul's warning that the federal government is poised to limit Internet privacy. He often rails against a bill pending in Congress called SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that Paul insists would allow the government to snoop on people's Internet searches."They want to take over the Internet," Paul said to boos at a campaign stop in Iowa. "Can you imagine how much we're going to be curtailed in the spreading of our information if we lose the Internet?"
Paul does part ways with younger voters on some issues. He opposes abortion rights, even as polls show that a majority of young people support a woman's right to have an abortion. He says the subject of gay marriage should be left to the states. Polls show young people strongly support same sex marriage, much more so than older voters.
After the presidential race shifted to South Carolina this week, Paul decamped to Texas for a few days of rest. His young supporters say age matters little to them. His message, they say, is what matters.
President Barack Obama "should be the poster child for why you shouldn't vote for someone for their age or because they look presidential," said Anthony Mazaka, a 27-year-old architect who voted for Paul in New Hampshire. "People have to realize Obama isn't the president he said he was going to be."
Obama won 66 percent of young voters in 2008 and is working hard to reclaim them. But Obama's popularity has dipped with young voters, as it has with many other groups amid a weak economy and persistent high unemployment.
Paul's young supporters may choose not to back either Obama or the Republican primary victor. And Paul hasn't ruled out a third party candidacy, which could keep many young voters in his camp.
"Any political operative in either party would be stupid to ignore Ron Paul's appeal," Segal said.
News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius in Washington and Luke Meredith in Ankeny, Iowa, contributed to this report.
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