Ron Paul

Moses and handguns

They were the two presidential campaigns meant to motivate the disenchanted and the unaffiliated. But the rallies held over the weekend by Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Rep. Ron Paul highlighted the differences between their policies, their crowds, and their successes.

Almost a year to the day after Obama's afternoon rally at Auditorium Shores, the streets south of the Capitol were blocked off for the Illinois U.S. senator on Friday evening. He'd already made stops that day in Corpus Christi and Edinburg before returning to Austin and an estimated crowd of 30,000. In an hourlong speech, Obama mixed policy statements with a dose of humor. (After noting, to a chorus of cheers, that President George W. Bush will not be on the ballot in November, Obama added that "he's coming back to Texas," to a chorus of playful boos.) He also took time to tell the crowd that he had not one but two new campaign headquarters – one in East Austin and one in Dobie Mall – opening over the next three days. Nick Kimball, spokesman for the Obama campaign in Texas, said, "It's been incredible to see across the state and especially in Austin how people have been inspired by Senator Obama."

It was also by the shores of Lady Bird Lake that Paul held one of his early high-profile campaign events. At his Austin Tea Party last December, an estimated 3,000 supporters watched as his campaign staff threw crates marked "IRS" into the water. But on the steps of UT's Main Mall on Saturday afternoon, Paul's campaign was met with a mix of fervent support and dismissive booing. Escorted by bikers instead of police outriders, Paul clanged a replica of the Liberty Bell his staff was towing around between two tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. His continued support for ending the war in Iraq and the War on Drugs received universal support from this mostly student audience. But his opposition to Social Security and his suggestion that 9/11 would have never happened if America had "a better understanding of the Second Amendment" caused immediate and obvious division in the crowd. That's not the only division he faces this year: The erstwhile Libertarian faces a primary challenge in his own congressional district, from Friendswood council member and conservative Christian Chris Peden.

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