Ron Paul launches day-long rally in Minneapolis

Ron Paul
Republican Rep. Ron Paul held a news conference this morning at the Target Center in Minneapolis to speak about the purpose of his Campaign for Liberty effort. He is holding a 10-hour rally today to promote it.
MPR photo/Caroline Yang

The Republican National Convention isn't the only political gathering happening in the Twin Cities today. Failed Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul speaks tonight at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Paul's supporters tried to get him a speaking slot at the convention, but it didn't work. So instead, they organized their own convention that's billed as a 'Rally for the Republic.' And, Paul said it's not about disrupting the RNC, it's about redefining Republicanism.

Ron Paul Rally
A staff member carries the sign representing the Minnesota Ron Paul supporters at the Campaign for Liberty rally in Minneapolis, MN September 2, 2008.
Caroline Yang for MPR

"Instead of complaining about the media and complaining about the party, we have still enough freedom in this country to get involved and become the party," Paul said. "That has been our approach rather than complaining a whole lot."

As a presidential candidate, Paul didn't have much electoral success. He didn't win a single state during the primary season, but he did prove to be an effective fundraiser, buoyed by a tidal wave of online donations.

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Paul set himself apart from the Republican field with his opposition to the war in Iraq and his support for returning to the gold standard. And while he is a Republican, Paul's politics are the same as they were when he ran for president as a Libertarian back in 1988.

"For some reason, 100 years ago they got to thinking that freedom has two parts to it," Paul said. "You can be for economic freedom and you don't have to be for personal liberty and vice versa. And what we're trying to do is reverse that trend and say freedom is across the board."

The event featured an array of musical performers, including singer Aimee Allen. MSNBC television personality Tucker Carlson served as master of ceremonies. Even former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura put in an appearance.

Ron Paul Rally
A rally attendee is interviewed by a television crew during the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty rally in Minneapolis, MN September 2, 2008.
MPR photo/Caroline Yang

Organizers say they sold more than 10,000 tickets to the event -- at a price fitting of Ron Paul's reverence for the founding fathers -- $17.76 a pop.

Paul fans are here from all over the country. Tom Rankin came up from Louisiana. Even if he hadn't traveled to Minnesota, he probably would have left town anyway to escape Hurricane Gustav.

"The eye went over my town, Morgan City, which is 23 miles from the coast," Rankin said. "All the damage I got was a couple of shingles and one of the screens came off, and I expect the federal government to replace both of them."

In case you didn't get it, that's a libertarian joke -- Rankin doesn't want the government involved in his life at all.

"If they obey the constitution and the rule of law, that fixes everything people," he said. "Wake up!"

Ron Paul said he has hundreds of sympathizers who are delegates to the RNC. And a number of them crossed the river to hear him speak.

But during the delegate selection process, some states tried to keep Paul's supporters from becoming delegates. The Minnesota GOP disqualified many aspiring Paul delegates because it said they did not have a long enough record of service to the party.

And Minnesota had two competing slates of candidates for national Republican delegate, one with lots of Paul supporters and the other with almost none.

Delegate and former State Auditor Pat Anderson, who caucused for Paul before switching to John McCain, appeared on both slates. She said the Minneosta Republican Party was wrong to marginalize the Paul supporters.

"I think this is a big tent party," Anderson said. "We talk about that. We need to live that. The Ron Paul people are our people and we need to bring them in and all get behind John McCain."

Delegate Marty Seifert, the minority leader of the Minnesota House, never supported Paul, but he also thinks the GOP should do more to assimilate the Paul faction. He said a good start would have been to let Paul speak to the convention.

"They should have just said we'll set some parameters," Seifert said. "You can't denounce Bush or whatever. But the whole ostracization of pushing people aside, you end up with a Bull Moose convention in another city."

But many of the Paul delegates at the Rally for the Republic seem happy to have their separate convention. They say they want to change the Republican Party, but they know it won't happen overnight.