Ron Paul plans his own convention

| Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Maverick GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has booked an arena in Minneapolis for a "mini-convention" that could steal some of John McCain's thunder just days before he accepts the Republican nomination.

A Paul campaign aide said the Texas congressman hopes to pack about 11,000 supporters into the Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota on Sept. 2, which coincides with the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center in neighboring St. Paul.

Paul, 72, will announce details for the rally Thursday at the start of the Texas Republican Convention in Houston.

The campaign hopes the daylong event will "send a message to the Republican Party," Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton tells the Tribune-Review.

"There is a growing surge of people out there just craving" for a return "to traditional American government, limited government that places personal liberty first and places an emphasis on personal responsibility and essentially gets out of the way after that," Benton said. "The buzz we get from supporters is that they are very eager to come to St. Paul and very eager to send a strong message."

McCain spokesman Jeff Sadosky declined comment. Paul has won 35 convention delegates, but was not invited to speak in St. Paul because he refuses to endorse McCain, according to his campaign.

Paul's plan to stage his own event is bad news for McCain, said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College.

"Conventions are about demonstrating unity and purpose and showcasing the nominee. They are media events made for prime-time TV. Any distraction from the central message of the convention is not helpful," Madonna said.

McCain clinched the nomination on March 4 after gaining enough delegates to reach the 1,191 needed to win. Although Paul conceded in March he'd lost his bid for the White House, he's maintained a scaled-down campaign.

Paul, a Green Tree native, surprised most of the political establishment by raising about $35 million, mostly via the Internet. Paul's Libertarian-leaning views created a following across a broad political spectrum.

Paul did not win any primaries or caucuses, but continued to pick up significant votes in key states such as New Mexico and Pennsylvania even after McCain had clinched the nomination.

Jerry Shuster, a political communications expert at the University of Pittsburgh, said Paul's timing for the event is likely to put him in a media spotlight during at least one day of the convention.

Paul's forum probably won't be aimed at hurting the GOP, Shuster said.

"He never seemed to be an open opponent of the Republican Party, but more about what the Republicans need to get back to," Shuster said. "This is a golden opportunity for him to do that. The media is all going to be there so it's just a matter of going down the block to see him.

"You know he's going to get his 15 minutes on national news."

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