Ron Paul's swan song at the Republican National Convention, insistent enough to thwart moves to sideline it, fit the rabble-rouser role the retiring Texas congressman has played in challenging his party's orthodoxy and helping inspire the Tea Party movement.
Denied a speaking slot at the proceedings focused on presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Paul starred at his own outdoor rally on Aug. 26, sparked a spontaneous eruption of support when he walked onto the convention floor two days later and was accorded a video tribute at the gathering last night. More than 100 of his core backers then showed their devotion to him by marching out of the convention hall in Tampa, Florida, after the accolade was over.
Paul, 77, attracted his following with Republican presidential bids in both 2008 and this year that spotlighted his belief in limited government, his drive to get rid of the Federal Reserve and his opposition to U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In last night's tribute, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina said Paul -- who in 1988 ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate -- had inspired others by "not being afraid of anything," and that he embodied the anti-tax Tea Party "before there was a tea party." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that whether others wanted to admit it or not, "Ron Paul changed the conversation." Son Speaks A few minutes after the tribute, Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, took the stage. While the younger Paul has been talked about as a possible future presidential aspirant, he has yet to inherit his father's loyal following. He has, though, endorsed Romney, which his father stopped short of doing -- one of the reasons he was denied a speaking spot.
The elder Paul, who announced earlier this year that he wouldn't seek another House term, was Romney's last active challenger in the Republican presidential race. His campaign's grassroots efforts had won him significant convention representation in a handful of states, though Romney forces succeeded in ousting some of the Paul supporters, including those in the Maine, Louisiana and Oregon delegations.
By declining to release his delegates that remained seated, Paul kept the spotlight on divisions within the party. The party platform adopted at the convention also spoke to his influence. It included his push for an audit of the FED and his call for a commission to consider "a metallic basis for U.S. currency," or a return to the gold standard.
Obama Bashing Rand Paul, 49, focused his speech on bashing President Barack Obama and, toward its end, praising Romney as "someone who understands and appreciates what makes America great." He did take a swipe at fellow Republicans, saying his own party must acknowledge excessive military spending. And he slyly made reference to his father as he discussed his family's humble beginnings in America.
"My grandfather would live to see his children become doctors and ministers, accountants and professors," the senator said. He added that his grandfather also had lived to see "a certain congressman from Texas run for the presidency of the United States." In a Bloomberg News survey answered by 146 delegates from 10 swing states, the younger Paul ran second to Romney's running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as their choice to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 should Obama win re-election. Among seven choices, Ryan led with 25 percent support, with Paul at 21 percent.
'Different Person' Still, Oregon delegate and Ron Paul backer Cliff Hutchison, 38, took little solace from Rand Paul's moment on the podium. "He's not his son; he's a different person," he said.
Hutchison also declared the video tribute "a second-rate honor." Romney supporters in the room took a different view. "I wish they recognized reality," New York investor and Romney delegate Emil Henry said of Paul supporters. "Mitt is our nominee and we need to do everything we can to elect him." "Ron Paul was given an opportunity to run," said Representative Peter King of New York. "Nobody got in his way. And he lost. That's the nature of politics.
You support the winner." Rand Paul's endorsement of Romney "was important and very helpful," said Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. "Right now, the focus is beating Mr.