By J. PATRICK PEPPER
For The Oakland Press
DEARBORN — The night before Michigan’s presidential primary, Dr. Ron Paul made his final push for votes here.
With a standing room only crowd at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, Paul appealed to Arab-Americans — something no other Republican candidate has done publicly — using his bedrock campaign planks of individual liberty and fiscal conservatism.
“We can’t pay the bills. It’s a debt crisis,” said Paul to a roar of applause from the more than 1,200 people in the audience.
Organized by the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Arab Student Union, the theme of the rally was “Doctors for Paul.” The crowd, however, was much more than just doctors, students or Arabs. While those groups were well-represented, there were also young families, seniors, and blue-collar types. Former ASU president Hussein Saghir, now a medical student at Michigan State University, acted as the liaison between Paul’s campaign and the ASU. In 2008 when Saghir was still at UM-D, he helped arrange for Paul to speak to a group of students on campus, he said.
“I’ve been a supporter of Dr. Paul for a long time, but to see it come full-circle like this with what we had in 2008 and now tonight is really something,” Saghir said.
Saghir took the stage following an introduction from the director of Paul's Michigan campaign. He worked the crowd asking things like if they were ready to put an end to costly foreign wars and abolish the Federal Reserve system. Saghir was followed by Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani, whose publication on Friday endorsed Paul for president.
"We believe that Dr. Paul brings to this campaign sense, sanity and sincerity," Siblani said. "He's the only candidate to bring us together while the rest divide us apart."
For a little less than an hour, Paul gave his familiar stump speech outlining a plan to cut government indebtedness. Some of the issues — putting an end to wars in far-flung Middle Eastern countries and repealing the Patriot Act — seemed particularly well-received.
After strong support for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 election, it appears many war-weary Arab-Americans are now turning to Paul.
“I’ve emphasized the wasteful spending overseas and they’ve been very interested in that, so I’m delighted to have their support,” Paul said of his newfound constituents to a scrum of reporters at a VIP meet-and-greet after the speech. He also said Arab-Americans have reached out to him on civil liberties issues.
“I think people that look a little bit different sometime are more abused on civil liberties than others so they’re very receptive to my views on civil liberties,” Paul said.
The stop in Dearborn marked Paul’s fifth and final campaign event in Michigan. Recent polls show less than 10 percent of likely voters supporting him statewide, leaving him considerably behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum . But as he mentioned several times during his address, Paul, who hasn’t won in any of the six states that have held primaries so far, can pick up delegates in Michigan whether or not he wins.