WATERVILLE — A 76-year-old presidential hopeful told a standing room only crowd Friday at Colby College that young people who promote truth will help change history.

And Republican Ron Paul, in the midst of a six-stop tour this weekend in Maine, said changes need to be made.

If the United States government heeded the Constitution, many of the country’s problems would be solved, Paul said during a 35-minute speech in Ostrove Auditorium.

The 12-term congressman from Texas came to Maine after Thursday night’s debate in Jacksonville, Fla.

The other three Republican presidential candidates — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — reportedly planned to campaign in Florida until Tuesday’s primary there. At stake in Florida are 50 delegates, all of which go to the primary winner. Maine will select 24 delegates, which are split among the candidates.

A Quinnipiac poll released Friday morning had Romney with 38 percent of the vote in Florida and Gingrich with 29; the same poll showed Paul and Santorum battling for a distant third.

Paul said Friday he came to Maine to get all-important delegates. The caucuses begin Sunday with the three in Fairfield, Palermo and Unity.

To win the Republican presidential nomination, a candidate needs 1,144 of the 2,286 available delegates.

While it has been popular for Republicans to bash President Barack Obama, Paul said the country’s foreign policy has been misguided since Woodrow Wilson was president in the early 20th century.

The United States should have a strong national defense, Paul said, but it should stop trying to be the “policeman of the world.”

Bringing troops home would save money and lives, he said.

Paul said American troops are in more countries now than ever and that in Iraq “we took a messy country and made it much messier.”

He also bashed the fiscal policies of the last 40 years that have led to the nation’s $16 trillion debt.

At the very least, Paul said the Federal Reserve should undergo a full audit.

“We’re in the middle of a crisis that started four years ago,” he said. “Just because we print money and build weapons doesn’t help people. This monetary system is not viable.”

Paul’s promise to cut $1 trillion out of the budget his first year as president drew a round of loud applause from the audience.

Citing the tea party and Occupy movements, Paul said people are waking up.

“People are not happy with the two major parties,” he said. “Our empire is going to come apart.”

Paul said after 9/11 the government has not protected citizens’ civil liberties. He condemned the Patriot Act and the portion of the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the military to detain citizens in the United States and hold them indefinitely without trial.

Paul, a physician, said the government also intervenes too much with regard to what people put in their body, mouth and lungs.

“Some people will make mistakes and they will suffer the consequences,” he said. “But when bureaucracies make mistakes, it affects all of us.”

Colby government professor Joseph R. Reisert said Paul stuck to themes that often resonate with college students — liberty and noninterventionist foreign policy.

Avram Reisman, a junior at Colby, said he backs Paul because he promotes peace, advocates ending the war on drugs and supports personal liberties.

Brian Russo, a Colby junior, said “Paulitics” inspires youth that they can change the country.

“This is a watershed moment,” Russo said. “We have a viable conservative libertarian who offers pragmatic solutions.”

As people waited in line to have their picture taken with the presidential hopeful, Ron Paul’s wife, Carol, chatted with those milling around the auditorium.

She recalled their earlier days together before politics.

When Paul was doing his medical residency in Detroit, Mich., and they lived on $215 a month, Carol Paul said she taught tap, ballet and twirling to help pay the $150 per month rent bill.

“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “We made our own fun; we played cards.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

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