RENO - Republican Ron Paul said Thursday that his criticism of U.S. fiscal policy and opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are much more popular views today than they were during his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008.
The Texas congressman considering another bid for the White House in 2012 predicted he would enjoy support from progressive Democrats who are "disgusted" with President Barack Obama, as well as a growing number of Republicans who now identify the war more closely with his Democratic administration than those of President George W. Bush.
"I think the war will be a big issue," Paul told reporters before he gave a speech Thursday night in the early-voting state at the University of Nevada, Reno. "People are tired of war ... The bloc of voters that have been the most resistant to that message has been the Republican primary voters. But I think that is changing."
Known for his long-time criticism of the Federal Reserve and central banking philosophies, he said his call for monetary reform dovetails nicely with public concern about the billions of dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"If you had to pay for them through taxation, there'd be no wars because we can't pay for them. Instead we just put off the debt and print up more money," he said.
The Obama administration has started preparing to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as it faces the challenge of finding a way out of the war and making cuts to the Pentagon budget that could bring political risk.
Earlier this week, Paul announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee in Iowa. He said he would expect his message of "limited government and personal liberty" to resonate with Nevadans, who will vote in precinct caucuses next Feb. 18 after Iowa and New Hampshire get their turns.
"I think they have a reputation for that - for independent mindedness," Paul said. "It has been a good state overall for getting support."
That did not include Nevada GOP leadership in 2008, when Paul supporters claimed they were cheated out of delegates to the national convention after party leaders abruptly recessed the event before all ballots could be counted.
Paul said an invitation to meet with Washoe County Republican Party leaders in Reno on Friday is evidence the mood has changed.
"Four years ago, that wouldn't have happened," he said Thursday. "We were considered outsiders. We weren't even invited to the convention."
Paul, who is among the few Republicans in Congress critical of the Patriot Act's infringement on privacy rights, said his "freedom philosophy" has appeal "across the board."
"It's not just conservatives in the Republican Party," he said. "When I am on road going through airports, the people who stop and talk to me, many of them I just know they did not vote in the Republican primary."
"Progressives who care about civil liberties and about the war are totally disgusted with Obama," he added.