Republican congressman Ron Paul on Sunday turned his presidential swan song into a feisty rage against the political machine of his own party for legally manipulating him out of presidential convention delegates.
“They’ve learned how to bend rules, break rules and now they want to rewrite the rules,” Paul told a raucous crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters who nearly filled the Sun Dome arena in Tampa, the city hosting this week’s hurricane-delayed Republican National Convention.
His ire, and that of his supporters, has been directed at GOP leaders and the party’s nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney, who have worked legal avenues to deny convention seats to delegates won by the longtime Texas congressman.
A deal struck by Paul’s campaign and the GOP leaders will seat some, but not all, of his delegates, preventing a scenario under which the perennial candidate would be allowed speech time.
Paul, 77, joked with the crowd that he’d just received a call from Republican leaders offering him an hour to speak at the convention Monday about whatever he wants.
“Just kidding, just kidding,” he said, realizing that some in the crowd had missed the joke: all convention events Monday have been canceled because of tropical storm Isaac.
The “We Are The Future Rally” at the arena, on the campus of the University of South Florida, had all the trappings of a personal Ron Paul convention. There were musical acts, including singer Aimee Allen who exhorted the chanting crowd to “start a revolution, break down illegal institutions.”
There was a big electronic screen in the background, colored red, white and blue. There was the tableau of Paul’s children and grandchildren lining the stage, a video tribute to his wife, who introduced Paul’s heir-apparent, his son Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Who promptly launched a borderline raunchy criticism of TSA airport security pat downs, before introducing his dad.)
We were hard-pressed to find any Paul loyalists who had decided to give their votes to Romney.
“I’m not voting for Romney; I’m not voting for Obama,” said Joanne Hijab, 67, of The Villages retirement community in Central Florida. “They’re the same.”
“I just hope [Paul's] message, his platform will go forward,” she said.
Robert Alexander, 30, of Cape Coral, Fla., said he’ll write in Ron Paul’s name for president.
Not Romney? “Heck, no,” said the Navy veteran, who is training to be a pilot. “That’s very, very anti our message.”
Alexander was among Paul supporters who say they believe that Paul will get more delegate votes than anyone thinks, and party leaders may want.
And he predicted that the Paul revolution will go on, driven by the grassroots.
Paul himself took up that theme, noting that media reports predict the demise of his revolution without him. “Don’t they only wish,” they said.
“We’ll get into the tent, believe me,” he said, “because we will become the tent in the future.”
On Tuesday, when the party starts the nominating procedure, the immediate future of the fate of the movement embodied by the long-time doctor — the nation’s best known libertarian — may become a bit more clear.