ROSEVILLE, Minn. — Digital cameras flashed, cell phone videocameras rolled and fans yelled "I love you."
Texas congressman and failed Republican presidential contender Ron Paul is a superstar at last.
At least, it seemed that way at the Rosedale Center mall Borders book store, where nearly a thousand fans seeking his autograph on The Revolution: A Manifesto waited in a line that snaked down to Macy's, more than a football field away.
"Are you kidding? Ron Paul has done so much for this country. What I've done is something so little compared to what he's done," said Tony Sotelo, 32, a postal worker from Ventura, Calif., who drove three days with his older brother Sean Sotelo to hit what's being called the "Ron Paul convention."
Paul's "Rally for the Republic" directly competes with the Republican National Convention and has benefited from its truncated schedule.
The Paul convention ignored the storm and pressed on with the book-signing and a Sunday night delegate welcome reception. A Monday night Ron Paul Nation Celebration was expected to draw a few thousand, including hundreds of GOP convention delegates with more time on their hands than they expected.
10-hour rally at Target Center
Paul's Rally for the Republic winds up today with nearly 10,000 expected for a 10-hour event at the Target Center featuring Barry Goldwater Jr., former Gov. Jesse Ventura, pundit Tucker Carlson and musician Jimmy Vaughan.
"It's about freedom and liberty and the Constitution," said Jim Barr, a 55-year-old from Pittsburgh wearing colonial hat and peasant shirt at the Roseville Borders. "I told Dr. Paul he's reviving the Constitution."
Paul, 72, had a tough time of it during the primary. He ran as a Republican on a libertarian-leaning platform that included opposing the war, lowering taxes and limiting federal functions to those specified in the Constitution. He never won a state but developed a fervent following, did well in a few western primaries and raised millions over the Internet.
But he has been unwilling to relent and throw his support to McCain, which has put him at odds with the GOP. His supporters have been kicked out of GOP meetings, including in Pasco County earlier this summer, and Paul isn't on the speaking schedule for the Republican National Convention. But he'll be there.
Pushing his agenda
"Our goal isn't to disrupt their operation," said John Tate, executive director of Campaign for Liberty. "Our goal is to have our own separate thing."
The stated goal of Campaign for Liberty is to take up the Paul agenda and carry on where he leaves off. More than 500 die-hard Paul supporters became Campaign for Liberty grass roots leaders. They attended a two-day training program in a Minneapolis suburb, where they learned how to spread the ideals of limited government without the depending upon Paul, the man.
About 50 Floridians attended the training, including Boca Raton software entrepreneur Steven Talcott Smith, 34, who became a fan through watching Paul during a Republican presidential debate last summer.
"I hadn't realized how far off from truth I had drifted," Smith said.