The Ron Paul Impassioned Meetup Group

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Late on a balmy Friday night in Wicker Park, a gentrifying neighborhood just northwest of the Loop, a small tribe of 20-somethings gathers outside a corner bar, the Boston Globe reports. Their leader, a petite, energetic 25-year-old named Meghann Walker, hands out leaflets to people heading inside.

“Do you guys know Ron Paul is going to be in town tomorrow?” Walker asks a short-haired young woman in jeans and flip-flops. “There’ll be a lot of good people there, that’s for sure.”

“Cool,” the woman replies.

Walker, a waitress and anthropology student who lives in Chicago, cried on Election Night 2004, crushed that Democrat John Kerry had failed to unseat President Bush. Last year, deeply disillusioned with the Iraq war and with politicians of both par ties who had failed to stop it, she began a political odyssey that transformed her into a libertarian Republican.

Now, she spends “every free moment” campaigning for Paul, a Texas congressman who vows that if he’s elected president he’ll abolish the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve, let younger workers opt out of Social Security, and – alone among the GOP field – immediately withdraw all US troops from Iraq. She even has business cards identifying herself as a volunteer Ron Paul organizer.

“I don’t really see my friends anymore,” she said. “My new friends are the Ron Paul Meetup group.”

Walker is part of a small but impassioned group of young people providing unlikely fuel to Paul’s long-shot candidacy. Stuck in the single digits in the national polls (in the latest Gallup poll, he’s tied for sixth at 3 percent among likely Republican primary voters), Paul has developed a feisty following on the Internet, migrating from obscure Libertarian websites to YouTube and MySpace, where he now has more “friends” than any other Republican candidate. His young fans, who appear to outnumber members of his aging Libertarian base, regularly storm post-debate online polls, giving their candidate landslide victories. He has even developed an international following, with Paul blogs springing up in more than a dozen countries.

Increasingly, his young fans are taking their campaign to the streets. Grassroots groups organized through the website Meetup now have more than 40,000 members in 751 cities and towns. They hang “Google Ron Paul” signs from highway overpasses. They show up in force at Republican events, wearing T-shirts trumpeting the “Ron Paul Love Revolution.”

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