Ron Paul called, and the students answered.
More than 700 community members, mostly students, turned out to hear Paul speak tonight at the University of Northern Iowa Common's Slife Ballroom. Every chair in the room was claimed 30 minutes before the candidate was scheduled to appear. Students stood along the walls and crowded into the back of the room. At least 50 couldn't fit into the ballroom and sat in the hallway outside, just listening to the Republican presidential hopeful's words.
As the Texas Congressman entered - late, because organizers said they wanted to wait for the fire marshall's approval of the over-stuffed room - the crowd rose to its feet with a roar of applause and cheers.
"It looks to me like the revolution has arrived," Paul said as the students cheered.
The energy of the event was palpable. Paul spoke with passion about personal liberty, bringing home American troops, ending the war on drugs, cutting taxes and cutting government spending. His remarks were often met with bursts of applause and cheers.
In a way, the atmosphere was reminiscint of the crowds of young voters who greeted Barack Obama when he campaigned four years ago. Some Paul supporters in the crowd, in fact, said they voted for Obama in 2008 - but wouldn't do so again. Instead, this time, they are all about Ron Paul.
"I was always a Democrat. I voted for Kerry, Obama, because of anti-war stuff," said Justin Jensen, who is a co-chairman of Paul's campaign in Black Hawk County. "But I saw Obama lying through his teeth, so I had to change my candidate."
That doesn't mean he's going straight conservative. Jensen said if Paul doesn't get the nomination, he won't vote for Obama, but he won't vote for any of the other Republican candidates either.
"If I have to choose, I'm writing in his (Paul's) name," he said.
Others in the crowd, filling out voter registration forms after the event was over, could be heard lamenting checking, "Republican," on the form.
For them, it wasn't the party, but the candidate who has won them over.
Whitney Jackley, a Cedar Falls precinct captain, was one.
"I never thought I'd ever be a Republican," she said. "I voted for Obama."
She said she knew a lot of people who were either registered as Democrats or Independents who were planning to caucus for Paul - which meant they were switching their registration, at least until after January.
Volunteers with the campaign said they registered 70 people to vote after the event.
Paul had the support of 18 percent of likely Iowa caucus goers in a Des Moines Register poll released Dec. 3. That put him in second place, behind Gingrich at 25 percent and in front of Romney’s 16 percent.
His support among young people, however, is much higher. Paul tied for first with Michele Bachmann with
47 percent of support from 18 to 29-year olds in Iowa in a Nov. 28 InsiderAdvantage poll, and he drew a crowd of more than 1000 at Iowa State University in .
Since September, the Paul campaign has organized 332 Youth for Ron Paul chapters in 46 states, including six on college campuses in Iowa, including UNI, said Ani DeGroot, Youth for Ron Paul midwest regional director.
Jeramie Anderson, 20, a UNI junior, said what drew him to the campaign was not so much Paul's policies but a feeling of sincerity from the presidential hopeful.
"It's kind of a magical thing. I just want to witness it in person," he said. "It's not a common thing for me to trust a politician. His message holds more truth and is more solid than any politician I've ever witnessed in history."