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A tired-looking Ron Paul showed up in South Carolina Sunday after a four-day disappearing act that has some close aides wondering if their candidate is running short on stamina.
Paul, the oldest candidate in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, often takes time off between primaries but his latest absence from a key primary campaign leaves some observers and even ardent supporters thinking the candidate needs more than just a few days off.”
“Dr. Paul is tired. Campaigning for President is hard work,” says Terry Andrews, a Paul supporter. “But he’s in great shape.”
Others aren’t so sure. Paul has shown increasing irritability on the campaign trial recently, snapping at aides, showing flashes of temper with interviewers and telling people to “get out of my way” when the crowds crush in.
He looks tired and his voice trails off in speeches and in interviews.
“Some of the pressures of the campaign are getting to him,” an aide admits to Capitol Hill Blue.
Last week, Paul bristled at questions during an MSNBC interview. He has cut interviews short and walked off when reporters tried to question him about his involvement with racist newsletters that bore his name or his extreme positions on foreign policy and the economy.
“Paul looks tired. He’s not a young man and that is showing. Plus, his campaign doesn’t have the enthusiasm in South Carolina that you see in a place like Iowa,” state political activist Shawn Griffith tells Capitol Hill Blue. “The people who might support him are more drawn to (Rick) Santorum.” Santorum draws support from the evangelicals, the home schoolers and other constituencies that traditionally flock to Paul.
On the stump Sunday to accept the endorsement of newly-elected state senator Tom Davis, Paul delivered his standard stump speech but his rhetoric lackws enthusiasm.
He predicted that his prospects in South Carolina are “rising” and predicted “we’re going to do well next Saturday night.”
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, however, shows Paul trailing GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney by more than 20 percentage points and tied for second-place with Rick Santorum. CNN’s poll shows Romney surging and Paul in fourth place behind Santorum and Newt Gingrich.