Jeffrey Glidden spent most of last week at the Virginia State Fair, but he wasn't riding the Zipper or sizing up livestock. At a table in the Exhibition Hall, sandwiched between a jeweler making magnetic bracelets and a vendor selling anti-asthma oil, the retired Navy man spent his time answering the simple question: Who is Ron Paul?
"On Saturday we gave away over 400 balloons, and that got the word out," Glidden says. "People came up asking: 'Who's Ron?' 'Who's this Ron?'"
The same question has been popping up in handmade, sponge-painted posters on the Boulevard and on bed-sheet banners over freeway overpasses.
The answer? Ron Paul is a man running for president of the United States.
A firm believer in the right to bear arms, home schooling and legalizing the medical use of marijuana, the 10-term Republican congressman from Texas slants libertarian. In contrast with fellow GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani and Fred Thompson, who have flourished in the headlines with endorsements and events, this far less-well-known candidate seems to be dominating the signs-and-fliers field at ground level.
Those efforts apparently happen without much direction from the central campaign in Northern Virginia. "We have guerrilla independent supporters all over the country," says Jesse Benton, Paul's communications director. "That lends strength to our campaign."
Paul caught national attention when he argued in a televised debate that the attacks on 9/11 could be the result of America's foreign policy, a remark Giuliani immediately demanded he retract. The statement launched his long-shot campaign to semi-national prominence as the only anti-war Republican in the presidential field.
To get a candidate's name on the primary ballots in Virginia, the campaign needs to collect 10,000 signatures by Dec. 14.
"I turned in 83 last week," Glidden says, "and I got about 60 more in my truck I got to get notarized, and turn those in." S