Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 | 8:02 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. — All week long, Ron Paul supporters were predicting that they’d get upward of 10,000 fans for their pre-convention P.A.U.L. Fest of rock bands and raucous speakers.
But by the time the weekend rolled around, only a fraction of that trickled into the Florida State Fairgrounds. Singers jammed to a near-empty expo hall. And because Ron Paul declined an invitation to attend, it was left to Gary Johnson to draw the biggest crowd — of about 1,000.
“The lack of hope will sap the enthusiasm of all but the most extremely devoted people,” said Pat Kerby, one of a handful of Nevada delegates to turn out for the expo Saturday afternoon, which was supposed to be the high point of the P.A.U.L. Fest (renamed the People Awakening and Uniting for Liberty when its namesake decided to be a no-show).
But it was also a low point for Ron Paul supporters, who were dealt a debilitating blow on Friday when the rules committee determined that half of Maine’s delegates would not get credentials and would be replaced with Romney supporters, citing concerns with that state party convention’s lax identification and security procedures.
That means Maine no longer has enough votes to support the Nevada delegation’s effort to ballot Ron Paul. It is highly unlikely that the five states necessary to promote such a ballot will come together in time for the convention’s official delegate vote count.
Maine is another state in which Mitt Romney won the party caucuses, but Ron Paul supporters got a majority of delegates, just like Nevada.
“We are going to appeal to the convention to seat the entire Maine delegation,” said Ashley Ryan, a Maine delegate and Paul supporter. “Maine had no qualms about sending 40 Ron Paul supporters to represent the state.”
“I was really looking forward to coming to the RNC and meeting different delegates -- not Ron Paul delegates, but Romney or Santorum or Gingrich, and espousing the views of Dr. Paul,” said Jim Ayala, a Nevada delegate and Paul supporter who has been tasked to vote for Romney. “But I don’t see the point of that anymore. They’ve shown that they really just want to shut us out. They don’t want to hear us. And unfortunately a lot of the rank and file have shown that they have the same opinion.”
So what’s left? Well, with a little rain delay, thanks to Hurricane Isaac and the RNC’s last-minute move to cancel Monday’s events, some Paul supporters think they have more time to pursue their cause.
That may be enough to fire up the Paul base to turn out in larger numbers on Sunday, when Paul is expected to address crowds at the USF Sun Dome in a rally closely counterscheduled against the opening ceremonies of the convention.
But convention officials predict that will be the Ron Paul movement’s swan song for 2012.
“You know some of his real ardent, fervent supporters would like to see (Paul ballotted), but candidly, it would not be a healthy thing for the GOP to have a divisive ballot,” said Bob List, a Nevada delegate and RNC committeeman. “I don’t see how that’s going to happen. I don’t think Congressman Paul would expect that or want that...It’s going to take every vote we can muster and pull together to beat Obama.”