Enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters pack a SeaTac hotel ballroom to hear the presidential hopeful speak.

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Ron Paul brought his uncompromising, underdog Republican presidential campaign to a rollicking crowd Thursday night that packed a SeaTac hotel ballroom.

Fans with long hair, gray hair, dyed hair and no hair filled every chair in a 1,000-seat ballroom at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel. Others stood lining the walls, and when that space was all taken, dozens more sat on the floor.

The “Ron Paul” chants started about 15 minutes before Paul was introduced by state Rep. Cary Condotta, a Republican from East Wenatchee. Condotta called Paul the one candidate out to “stop the Fed, the IRS and the TSA.” An hour later as Paul wound up a speech that stressed individual liberty above all, they turned to “President Paul” chants.

The entire crowd rose and stood throughout his 40-minute speech.

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Paul’s appearance was part of a four-city swing through Washington state in advance of the March 3 caucuses. He spoke in Vancouver, Wash., earlier in the day and is to hit Richland and Spokane on Friday.

In Washington state’s 2008 GOP caucuses, Paul finished third with 21 percent, trailing John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Paul’s backers have been organizing for months to encourage supporters to turn out at the Republican caucuses. He was the first GOP candidate to open a campaign office in the state.

Paul has yet to win a caucus or primary (though his supporters are disputing caucus results in Maine). But he is focusing heavily on caucuses in states such as Washington, which reward dedicated supporters and grass-roots organizing.

The Paul visit is just the latest sign that Washington’s Republican caucuses will be hotly contested this year. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigned in Olympia and Tacoma on Monday. And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has announced plans to be here March 1.

Wearing a blue sweater, bluejeans and black shoes, Paul thanked the crowd for “inviting me to your revolution.” He then introduced his wife of 55 years, Carol, and his granddaughter Linda.

The Texas congressman accused other candidates of merely “tinkering” with the status quo. “What we need is a lot less government management of lives and a lot more individuals running their own lives,” he said.

NATO, the United Nations, Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve drew the most lusty boos. Paul’s claim that “all wars are negative” drew perhaps the loudest applause and sparked a “bring them home” chant.

Paul said his supporters mainly came from two camps: older, disengaged voters and younger ones from colleges.

Some even titled toward the Democrats. Brad John, 20, a Seattle Pacific University student, said he supported Obama in 2008 and would again this year against any Republican candidate but Paul. John said he liked Paul’s positions on civil liberties better than the president’s.

Time and again, Paul sounded the theme that more individual liberty would cure myriad problems and create prosperity. “The richest countries have always been the freest countries,” he said.

The March 3 precinct caucuses will include a presidential straw poll, and attendees will elect delegates to Republican county and legislative-district conventions. But Washington’s 43 delegates to the Republican National Convention won’t be bound to any candidate until the state GOP convention in June.

This story contains information from Seattle Times archives.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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