Ron Paul is riding high in the polls in Iowa ahead of Tuesday’s caucuses. But what is it about this right-wing libertarian that inspires such devotion among his followers – and such fear among many mainstream Republicans?

Dan Jones is lost for words.

The 28-year-old self-employed builder has travelled from Wisconsin to see his political hero Ron Paul in action.

He hears the briefest of campaign speeches – the first leg of a whistle-stop tour of Iowa ahead of Tuesday’s all-important caucuses.

And Mr Paul’s supporters are nearly outnumbered by the hordes of foreign and domestic media crowded into a hotel ballroom in downtown Des Moines.

But the artificial atmosphere does not blunt the fervour of the crowd, which chants Mr Paul’s name and cheers his pledge to shake up the status quo and return America to its founding principles of “liberty, peace and prosperity”.

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