Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul rolled out some equal opportunity scorn late Thursday in Iowa, criticizing Democrats and Republicans while elevating the concerns of the tea party and Occupy Wall Street movements.
But before he zinged the two political parties, the Texas congressman began his speech in front of over 300 people in Cedar Rapids with a joke about a matter he takes very seriously.
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"I was told we were having a little trouble with our microphone," Paul said as the mic screeched with mild feedback. "First thing I thought was, 'Ben Bernanke got to us, you know. It was a sabotage. The Fed is after me.'"
"Thank you very much for coming," Paul continued. "We have been very busy these last couple of days. And we've been very encouraged. Has anybody noticed that the polls have changed significantly?"
Polls have recently showed Paul either leading in Iowa or near the top, presenting the prospect that the congressman could win the first in the nation caucuses on Jan. 3.
Part of Paul's appeal: a libertarian message that includes ending the Federal Reserve, keeping the U.S. out of war, dismantling the Department of Education and dramatically lowering spending. The candidate has suggested cutting $1 trillion in the first year of a Paul administration.
But Paul's supporters also applaud his speaking out against political opponents, outside and inside his own party.
The tactic was on display during the candidate's Cedar Rapids speech.
"You know, the other Republicans have been rather challenging," Paul said, not identifying whether he was talking generally about his GOP critics or his rivals in the presidential race.
"They'll say, 'It's impossible – he's out of step. He wants to balance the budget. That's being out of step.' Then they say, 'How in the world can he get crowds out and get support? He wants to end all the war and bring the troops home,'" Paul said, prompting loud applause.
The candidate also criticized a former U.S. leader, though again not by name, and seemed to criticize the motives of defense hawks within the GOP.
"We were advised, many years ago, by a Republican president who said, 'Watch out – there's an alliance between the military and the Congress. And they will beat the drumbeat of war. Scare the people, there's another Hitler coming. They're going to bomb us. And we have to attack another country,'" Paul said. "How many Hitlers have we had here in the last 30 years? They always have to have an enemy in order to have to spend the money and buy more and more weapons."
That kind of language, and Paul's positions on U.S. military defense policies, cause some conservatives to suggest that Paul has no chance of winning the Republican nomination. The congressman frequently beats back that notion.
And yet his criticizing both political parties – even elevating two controversial yet politically opposed movements - also raises some eyebrows.
At one point during his speech, Paul said: "The American people are waking up….They're tired of what they heard from the two parties and get promises."
"If the Democrats promise one thing, then they get in and act like Republicans. Republicans promise something, they get in and act like Democrats. But the people are upset. They are getting angry. They are speaking out and I think it's very healthy."
"We have a tea party movement, we have an Occupy movement and people are saying, 'We've had enough. We don't want to be ripped off anymore. We want to do away with this crony corporatism and we want to restore individual liberty for each and every American citizen,'" Paul added.
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