Thousands of die-hard Ron Paul supporters paid no heed to Tropical Storm Isaac on Sunday and held a marathon rally in Tampa to celebrate the 77-year-old congressman, who gave a farewell speech of more than an hour about his libertarian views.
By Deborah Charles
As Republican National Committee officials scrambled to adjust the storm-shortened schedule for this week’s convention to nominate Mitt Romney for president, Paul followers gathered across town at the University of Southern Florida’s Sun Dome.
Paul, who is retiring from Congress this year after a colorful career and three failed White House runs, looked embarrassed as he got a prolonged standing ovation from an ear-splitting crowd as music thumped “Ron Paul, Ron Paul” in the background.
He praised his supporters for backing his vision of reduced government and increased personal liberties and urged them to continue the movement even now that his presidential bid had ended.
“The convention is very important this week …(But) there’s something even more important than all that and that is the cause that we’re leading, the cause for liberty and the attention that we’re getting right now,” said the Texas congressman.
In his last speech of the long campaign season, Paul gave a rambling, 65-minute discourse that jumped from one topic to another and made reference to novels and history. But the crowd stayed engaged, chanting “President Paul, President Paul” and cheering his belief government should be cut.
Filling seats up to the basketball arena’s rafters, the sign-waving crowd had already spent most of the five hours before Paul spoke listening to speakers bashing mainstream Republicans, the Federal Reserve and calling for an end to U.S. military involvement overseas.
A favored topic was getting rid of the Federal Reserve Bank. South Carolina state senator Tom Davis got the crowd revved up into a frenzy when he criticized the central bank chairman. “Ben Bernanke is a traitor and a dictator,” Davis said to roars from the crowd as they stood and stomped on the floor.