Here was the libertarian version of one of those old, Soviet-era Kremlin funerals where — after fighting another head cold — the doddering leader went to that bowl of borscht in the sky, followed by days of mourning.
Ron Paul had no effect on the Republican presidential nominating process, except for coming off as the Mr. Dithers of the hustings. Yet his musket of followers have insisted on having not one, but two days celebrating all things cranky for a campaign that long ago was more dead than Todd Akin's.
About 50 or so perpetually annoyed Paulskyites started lining up at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome around 8:30 Sunday morning. By the time the doors swung open two hours later, the throng had grown to a grumpy several thousand.
There was no small amount of mumbling over lost freedoms, disappearing liberties and a new world order plot by the media to ignore a towering national political figure. Paul, after scores of debates and primary battles, had accumulated a grand total of some 177 delegates, just a pinch behind Mitt Romney's 1,575.
Missed it by that much.
Those grousing that the media treated Ron Paul as if he was someone with only 177 delegates or so, apparently didn't seem to notice all the reporters and camera crews arriving to watch Paul's last political rites.
This week is supposed to be about the head of the ticket, rather than some truculent know-it-all at the end of the bar. But Mitt Romney and his campaign have assiduously sought to assuage the Ron Paul/tea party/crazy-as-a-loon right wing of the GOP by graciously incorporating many of their collective "We're all doomed!" planks into the party platform, which everyone will ignore as soon as possible.
Paul and his 177-delegate tower of power will not be permitted to speak at the convention, since even Republicans can take only so many ranting Col. Kurtz-on-the-Hillsborough moments. But there will be a brief video tribute to Paul, probably to be presented between the Three Stooges comedy and a Lowell Thomas travelogue about 3 a.m. this coming Friday.
Still, Romney's efforts to make nice with the Ron Paul Raccoon Club may have been for naught. While this was billed as a "We are the future rally" to fawn over Ron Paul and his fellow flat-earth travelers, in reality it was much closer to a de facto gin-up-the-vote effort for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Matt Drennan of Lakeland surveyed the growing crowd outside the Sun Dome and noted: "All these people will not vote for Romney," as more chins nodded around him than Don Zimmer bobblehead giveaway night at a Tampa Bay Rays game.
"We'll likely vote for Gary Johnson," Drennan added. More nodding heads.
I couldn't find a single Ron Paul apparatchik in the crowd who would remotely consider voting for Romney. Is it too late to cancel the Paul video?
If the Yosemite Sam of the flat tax gives his nod to the former New Mexico governor, would it have an effect?
In 1992, I covered another darling of the all-government-is-evil crowd at the Sun Dome. Then it was Ross Perot with his charts and graphs and a barely contained loathing for then-President George H.W. Bush.
Perot carried almost 20 percent of the vote, mostly at Bush's expense, and Bill Clinton waltzed into the White House. And Ralph Nader's presence on the Florida ballot in 2000 sucked just enough votes away from Al Gore to usher in the Cheney administration.
In a state as narrowly divided as Florida seems to be, a few thousand votes cast for Johnson might also have a spoiler effect.
You can't deny the Ron Paul rally wasn't good for the gee-gaw trade. Ron Paul hats, T-shirts and even would-be-first-lady Carol Paul's cookbook were flying off the shelves.
Also on hand were a group of Scientologists handing out their own recruitment tool, a booklet titled: "The Way To Happiness."
You can't blame the Scientologists for mixing in with the Ron Paul disciples. After all, it's always good to keep an eye on the competition.