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News Link • Politics: Republican Campaigns

Brian Doherty: Paul Festival: The Fight for the Ron Paul Grassroots' Soul

The Ron Paul grassroots are celebrating their final hurrah, at least during the actual political career of their inspiration, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), at Tampa’s Florida fairgrounds this weekend. (Paul will be holding his own farewell rally on Sunday.) Day one of the Paul Festival showed a movement less unified, present, and excited than it wants to be. But most of them are still sure that, whether or not the Republican Party will continue to be the horse they ride, they’ll keep up a fight for political liberty that’s turning out to be more complicated and difficult than many expected.

The event was thinly attended on day one; my estimate is no more than 800 were present at any one time. The festival occupied two linked huge hanger-like buildings. One was filled with exhibitor booths of appeal to the Paul world—the Free State Project, Ron Paul candy bars and T-shirts, the Independent Institute, the Libertarian Party, and purveyors of hard money and soft beef jerky.

The other one had stage for speakers and musical entertainment. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the latter, whose connection with Paulism seemed more personal than ideological, but did sit in on speeches by two different claimants to the specifically political attention of the Paul forces: Libertarian Party national committee chair Geoff Neale, and a mystery “Plan B for liberty” named Robby Wells who was, even today, still hoping to encourage RNC delegates to nominate him if, as was clear, Ron Paul was no longer trying to win it. (Wells' policy statements were a perfectly acceptable batch of Paulite positions, from being for abolishing the Fed to being against abortion.)

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