Paul Offers No GOP Support at Minn. Rally

Shut out of a visible role in the Republican convention, Texas congressman Ron Paul held his own raucous, shadow convention Tuesday night, officially launching a new political group he hopes will channel on some of the energy of his own failed presidential campaign.

Touting his 'Campaign for Liberty', Paul also celebrated his differences with the Republican party: while the GOP showcased a pro-war former Democrat in Sen. Joe Lieberman at its convention across the Mississippi River in St. Paul, the Texas Republican brought his supporters to their feet arguing that the US should not be involved in any wars unless it is in danger of being invaded.

It's actually war that begets terrorism, he argued. "We have a threat from terrorism, but that is a consequence of a seriously flawed foreign policy," Paul said.

Strength in Numbers

As a candidate, Paul failed to register enough votes to bring him anywhere near the Republican nomination, but generated buzz with vocal supporters and several quarters of strong fundraising – both of which were on display at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis as the crowd of some 10,000 supporters cheered him on.

Paul's shadow convention, dubbed the "Rally for the Republic," was a party paid for entirely with donations and ticket sales – $17.76 per head to commemorate the founding fathers, whose message Paul thinks have been muddled by two plus centuries of laws.

The biggest cheers came when Paul argued, as he did throughout his presidential campaign, that the Federal Reserve has hurt Americans with inflation and should be abolished.

"There should be no federal reserve system," he yelled, adding later, "Can you believe that 18 months ago I didn't think any of you existed or cared or knew about the federal reserve?"

Still on a mission to remake the GOP, for the first time Paul talked about his group (if not himself) working outside the Republican party. A true revolution, he said, will extend beyond party lines.

"I wanted to be President because of the things I don't want to do," Paul said, arguing that "resisting the temptation of power requires some strength and we don't need more government power," he said.

McCain as 'Lesser of Two Evils'

Earlier today, Paul offered no support for his party's presidential nominee, calling John McCain "the lesser of two evils."

Paul's comments at his Minneapolis news conference came as doors opened to his Republican National Convention counter-rally, where his legion of supporters gathered in the Twin City area from across the country, congregating by midmorning to display the fierce loyalty to Paul that marked the group through the primary process.

At the entrance to the Target Center -- across the Mississippi River, eight miles from St. Paul -- the supporters waved signs, cried "Freedom!" and cheered for passing cars that honked encouragement as though the candidate was emerging.

The RNC has not reacted to the counter-rally and has no plans to issue any statement.

Praising Paul

On the delegate floor, Republicans didn't consider the counter-rally a distraction, rather they offered praise for Paul's contributions to the primary season.

Steve Colligan with the Alaska delegation said "the Ron Paul effort in Alaska brought young people to interact in politics, so over all it's been good."

Joni Leckey, a Paul supporter from Oregon attending the "Rally for the Republic" with her four children ages 8 to 17, says the McCain campaign has not made any efforts to draw her support but challenged the Republican presidential candidate to try. "If they call us, we'll convert them," she said.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura, one of the rally's afternoon speakers, encouraged the group to "get the revolution going."

""If I see it start to rise up, well then maybe in 2012," Ventura promised.

Earlier in the day, Paul walked the line between keeping his message positive and venturing into anti-McCain territory.

Paul said he's not worried that his rally, staged strategically during the Republican National Convention, will draw support from McCain.

"For every vote that will leave McCain because of what I have said, there will be two who leave Obama," Paul said, because, according to the congressman, while Obama talks about a more peaceful approach to foreign policy than McCain, "He's every bit as hawkish as Sen. McCain is."

Paul won't encourage delegates attending the Republican convention in St. Paul who sympathize with him to throw their vote toward McCain in the interest of party unity either. Why bother, he said, since McCain already has the votes he needs.

Fighting for Paul Supporters

"I'm not urging them to vote for Sen. McCain. What they do there is incidental, because Sen. McCain has the nomination," he said.

Indeed, David Fischer, a Paul supporter and alternate from Iowa's delegation at the RNC, who was waiting in line for entrance to the Target Center arena, said McCain has not convinced him.

"John McCain has the opportunity to win my support," Fischer said, "but he doesn't have it yet."

Fischer says he doesn't necessarily wear his Paul allegiance on his sleeve within the delegation but believes most "think it's OK to have a certain amount of people to hold the candidate's feet to the fire."

Paul, who ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988 and again this year as a Republican, remains part of the GOP today. But he is a prodigal one at best.

He told reporters Tuesday that convention officials have restricted his floor access, insisting he have a chaperone at all times, and have taken his credential when he leaves the building. They won't allow his three staffers to accompany him, Paul says.

But Paul is trying not to strike too dissonant a tone, arguing that holding his rally is more positive than staging a protest on the convention floor. Depending on several sources, the number of Paul supporters credentialed for the convention are anywhere between 30 and 400.

He says party leaders should be a little more welcoming, given his success fundraising online and popularity with young people. "To me this is a great advantage to the Republican Party because we have brought so many new people in," he said.

Helena Brown, attending the RNC with the Texas delegation, campaigned for Paul during the primary and came to the rally to distribute pins and bumper stickers among the group.

She described the gathering as "a celebration" and insisted it "doesn't distract" from the activities of the convention, saying that, rather, it "calls up on the Republicans to remember our Founding Fathers calls."

Still, Paul's second-class status has triggered an anger among the "new people" he credits as his supporters.

Matt Letten, who traveled from Michigan to attend the rally, says he was insulted Paul wasn't given more prominence during the Republican convention.

"We did what we did, and we're not just going to sit there and let them walk all over us," he said, adding, "With the money we raised, Ron Paul should have had a speaking role."

Still, though his invitation to party with the GOP seems all but lost in the mail, Paul won't throw his support behind former Georgia Republican Bob Barr running on the Libertarian ticket, who stopped by the rally to court Paul's gathered supporters.

"Our movement has, generally speaking, wanted to stay and build in the Republican Party," Paul said, adding that ideals of limited government and noninterventionist foreign policy are, at heart, Republican.

Outside the arena, Barr told ABCNews.com, "Ron Paul supporters are looking for somebody in the general election ... that they they can support because that person stands for the same freedom agenda that Ron Paul does and that's Bob Barr."

Paul said he hopes his rally will lead to candidates from both major parties talking about the issues that are important to him -- foreign policy and monetary policy, the latter of which he thinks there is just plain too much government involvement, but which he says is ignored by both parties during the campaign.

"They don't even talk about it, and yet this is something we have been talking to young people about," he said.

Paul said he hopes his "revolution" to, according to a T-shirt draped across the podium from which he spoke, "bring the GOP back to its roots," will grow beyond the presidential election.

"If we're worth our salt and our ideas mean anything, this revolution will continue to gain momentum," he said.

ABC News' Lindsey Ellerson and Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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