Monday, August 27, 2012

U.S. election: Ron Paul stirs up supporters with swan song speech

If there was any doubt that freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, Ron Paul made the point home on an epic scale Sunday.

Banned from the Republican National Convention microphone for his refusal to fully endorse Mitt Romney — and simultaneously stripped of many of his own convention delegates through procedural wrangling — the veteran Texas congressman let fly with both barrels at his final campaign rally.

Playing to a wildly enthusiastic audience at a packed University of South Florida Sun Dome, Paul railed against the Republican establishment for cutting his movement out of the proceedings.

But pointing to the sheer youth of his most ardent followers, most of whom are of college age, the 77-year-old Paul assured them they will eventually find a home in beneath a future Republican tent.

“We will get into the tent, believe me, because we will become the tent,” said Paul, igniting a huge ovation.

It may well have been Paul’s last ever political speech. He has already announced he will retire from Congress at year’s end and few believe the charismatic former obstetrician has another run in his future.

All of which begs the question, what now becomes of the Ron Paul revolution? And who, if anyone, will take it forward?

Paul left those questions unanswered in an address that hit the familiar libertarian high notes, with calls for small government, low taxes, an end to foreign wars and the restoration of liberties that he says have been ripped from Americans by post-Sept. 11 security laws.

Republican convention officials, leery of losing the support of Paul’s following, have agreed to allow a “video tribute” to the candidate to be played on the convention floor this week.

But Paul himself was not be trusted to speak. Though an invitation was proffered, it came with rigid conditions: Paul’s words would have to be vetted by Team Romney and they would have to include a full-throated endorsement. Paul said no.

“It wouldn’t be my speech,” he told the New York Times. “That would undo everything I’ve done for the last 30 years. I don’t fully endorse him for president.”

It’s all adds up to a bitter pill for his true believers, several thousand of whom gathered throughout the weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds for an event billed as the Paul Festival.

Festive, it was not. As Tampa began to swell with the Republican faithful, the Paulistas vented freely.

“Where is our democracy? This is shaping up as the Old Crony Convention, changing the voting rules for seating delegates midway to shove Mitt Romney down our throats,” said Melissa Swetich, a Paul supporter from Orlando.

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