TAMPA — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will hold a free rally for thousands of supporters at the University of South Florida Sun Dome on the day before the Republican National Convention.
Doors will open at 11 a.m. Aug. 26 for the noontime rally, which is open to the public. The Sun Dome seats 10,400, and organizers expect a crowd.
"We're going to have a good speaker lineup, we're going to have music, we're going to have Dr. Paul, we're going to have our delegates, and we're going to set a great tone for our delegates to go get involved in the convention," Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton said Friday.
Paul is no longer actively campaigning, but his supporters have continued to fight for delegate seats in Tampa, encountering resistance and counter-maneuvering that has punctuated a few state GOP nominating conventions with fractious confrontations.
This week, POLITICO and the Boston Globe reported that in April, Paul activists seized control of Massachusetts caucuses, defeating some leading state Republicans, including a former lieutenant governor and a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, and instead electing their own as delegates to the RNC.
But more recently, a GOP committee disqualified 17 of those delegates and alternates for missing a deadline to provide a sworn statement that they would support Mitt Romney's nomination for president.
The tone that Paul's rally will seek to set for delegates will be "positive, respectful and constructive," Benton said. "I think they're going to be very positive and very upbeat and are going to make sure that what we believe in is represented in the platform."
Benton said he expected Paul to make an appearance at the RNC, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30, even if it's just to mingle with his delegates on the floor. Whether Paul has a speaking role at the convention has not been determined, he said.
"It's not the be-all and end-all for us, but Dr. Paul would welcome that if it's offered," Benton said.
Convention communications director James Davis said in an email Friday that organizers will not have the program schedule and list of speakers until closer to the event.
In addition to Paul's pre-convention rally, two separate groups of his supporters are planning their own festivals for the days before the convention.
Paul Festival 2012 is being planned for the Florida State Fairgrounds, just east of Tampa, to celebrate Paul's life, libertarian philosophy and service.
Thirty-five miles farther to the east on Interstate 4, Freedom Festival 2012 is being planned for Fantasy of Flight in Polk County. There the main focus is expected to be less on Paul himself and more on the U.S. Constitution. Both festivals are scheduled for Aug. 24 through 26.
Paul does not plan to appear at either, Benton said, but both are promoting speeches by Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.