Ron Paul scores in Saturday night New Hampshire debate

Paul's stances on foreign policy attract a lot of younger and more liberal voters, not usually a big part of the GOP base.

But that same base has had to swallow hard over the past month as reports of racist comments in newsletters published by Paul were readdressed in the New Republic, the same publication that brought these issues to the fore when Paul ran for president in 2012.

Paul has not handled the charges very well, saying he wasn't aware of the comments.

But when pressed about them again by George Stephanopoulos during the debate, Paul shifted to discussion of the nation's drug laws, which disproportionately affect blacks in this country, a topic that hadn't been discussed one bit in the nearly 20 televised debates over the past year.

PAUL: Well, it’s been explained many times, and everything’s written 20 years ago, approximately, that I did not write. So concentrating on something that was written 20 years ago that I didn’t write, you know, is diverting the attention from most of the important issues.

But the inference is obvious that — and you even bring up the word racial overtones. More importantly, you ought to ask me what my relationship is for racial relationships. And one of my heroes is Martin Luther King because he practiced the libertarian principle of peaceful resistance and peaceful civil disobedience, as did Rosa Parks did.

But, also, I’m the only one up here and the only one in the Democratic Party that understands true racism in this country is in the judicial system. And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws.

Look at the percentages. The percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re — they’re prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately. They get — they get the death penalty way disproportionately.

How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get, you know, execution?

But poor minorities have an injustice. And they have an injustice in war, as well, because minorities suffer more. Even with a draft — with a draft, they suffered definitely more. And without a draft, they’re suffering disproportionately.

If we truly want to be concerned about racism, you ought to look at a few of those issues and look at the drug laws, which are being so unfairly enforced.

Sure, it was a way of getting out of defending the indefensible, but it was still well worth hearing such views expressed in a nationally televised event.

The latest poll out of New Hampshire shows Mitt Romney losing support, but still with a solid 15-point lead over his next closest competitor, Ron Paul, 35 percent to 20 percent. None of the other candidates is making that large of a mark, with less than 48 hours before the polls open.

Paul's strong showing in Iowa and expected follow-up performance in the Granite State contrast with the fact that no one — including, most prominently, Paul himself — believes he'll be the nominee.

But Paul's Libertarian stances — especially on foreign policy — can sometimes be the only reason (for liberals, certainly) to watch the GOP presidential debates, and he was on fire on Saturday night on the ABC News debate in Manchester. Check out this exchange when Paul was challenged about his calling Newt Gingrich a "Chicken Hawk" for ducking out of serving in Vietnam.

There is little doubt that Mitt Romney will win Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. The only real drama is who comes in behind him, but that may not be in doubt either, as Ron Paul still controls a solid second place.

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