Benoit says that although the Internet plays a fundamental role in the local campaign, there are problems with depending solely on the Web. “There are people that you would never reach on the Internet,” he points out. “But someone can see a banner on the freeway, googles it, and checks out Ron Paul and likes it, then he has a whole different circle of friends that would not be connected to these other people.”
Ron Paul’s San Diego campaign headquarters is in Mike Benoit’s office, located in a small strip mall on Cuyamaca Street in Santee. On a Friday afternoon in the narrow parking lot, six young white males wearing face masks and latex gloves spray paint Ron Paul stencils on Tyvek paper rolls. Some of them sip on the patriotic brew Samuel Adams, supplied from a small refrigerator inside Benoit’s compact office. They make the signs in assembly-line fashion, and in a couple of hours’ time, over 50 posters are rolled up and ready to be hung.
When asked where the signs are headed, a few members simultaneously respond, “Everywhere.” One anonymous supporter adds, “I’ve been doing signs for a long time, and I haven’t been caught or anything. I’ve [hung] them at all times. I’ve even had cops drive by when I’m hanging them, and they just drive by.”
As the supporters wipe the sweat from their brows and stretch the kinks from their backs, they echo each other’s thoughts about what the Paul campaign stands for and laugh in disbelief at how uninformed and unaware mainstream America has become.
A few nights later, the Pacific Beach Bar and Grill is hosting an event for the season opener of American Idol. Marcus Rivchin, who’s 38, sits with other Ron Paul members, there to recruit new supporters. A Ron Paul sign perches on a ledge beside their table next to a row of flat-screen televisions, all tuned to America’s favorite talent show. While the group seems more focused on munching appetizers, sipping on draught beers, and talking everything Ron Paul than on recruiting new members, each becomes visibly distraught when a news crew from the local Fox affiliate arrives to film the crowd’s reaction to American Idol.
As a reporter interviews people at a nearby table, Rivchin runs over and thrusts his Ron Paul sign in front of the camera. A few people in the room boo.
“Are you serious?” yells one of Paul’s frustrated supporters. “American Idol? It just goes to show what we’re dealing with.” A moment later, as the film crew departs, she runs up to discuss the matter with them.
While the Internet and signs are important to the Paul campaign, precinct walking — campaigning door-to-door — is another significant aspect. Before walking a precinct in an upper-class neighborhood in Sorrento Valley, Elizabeth Blane, a 56-year-old business and life coach, checks her makeup in a downstairs mirror of her two-story home. Her house is as tidy as her appearance. She grabs a stack of Ron Paul literature — each piece has a personal greeting stapled to the front — and walks out into the warm January day. She says that precinct walking is “energizing and invigorating.”
As she approaches the first house, she glances at her precinct list, which tells her the residents’ registered party and whether they’ve voted in recent elections. She crosses off the address as she walks up to the front door.
After ringing the bell, Blane stands poised as sounds emanate from inside the house. She clears her throat just before a man with a heavy build opens the door.
She greets her neighbor by introducing herself. She informs him that she is out campaigning for Ron Paul. The man, who asks to remain anonymous, immediately lets Blane know that his main concern is immigration. “Without immigration taken care of, then I don’t think anything is possible,” he says. “It affects everything.”
“Exactly,” Blane responds. She directs the man to the Ron Paul website and hands him a brochure on Paul’s beliefs regarding stricter immigration laws.
Blane says she tries to make each stop as brief but informative as possible. “Dr. Paul is so prolific and his stances are so nuanced. He’s an expert on so many different issues that I couldn’t possibly begin to explain all of them.”
San Diego Paul supporters have adopted other strategies in their attempts at getting the word out about their candidate. This Saturday, February 2, supporters have rented out the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park for the largest meeting yet planned for the local campaign.
The event, which is slated to start at 12:45, will feature a yet-to-be-determined band and guest speakers. According to Brent Garcia, a 20-year-old long-haired Paul activist, “We aren’t sure if Paul will be able to make it. We know that he will be in the general area, so there’s kind of a chance that he will be coming. We won’t know for sure until the last moment.”
The rally will last until 5:00. Marches are planned going into the event and leaving it afterwards.
And while the supporters are not sure if Paul will show, they are sure to have their 20-foot mini-blimp at the event. The white helium balloon — shaped like a blimp, with “Who is Ron Paul?” written in big red letters — can usually be seen hovering above I-5 near Lindbergh Field’s landing path. The lines that secure the Ron Paul blimp are anchored at a house near the corner of Laurel and Columbia streets in Middletown. Manny Castro, a business broker, offered his house as the home for the blimp. Castro, like so many of the other Ron Paul supporters, has never before been involved in a political campaign.
When asked what his family and neighbors think of the blimp, Castro says, “My wife loves it. She was on TV! And all my neighbors love it. Some of them come up or honk when they go by. I’ve had absolutely no negative response whatsoever.”