Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign, a pugnacious, ideological crusade against big government and interventionist leanings in the Republican party, will officially end Thursday at a rally outside the Texas GOP's convention, ABC News has learned.
Paul told supporters back in March, in a video posted on his Web site, that he was "winding down" his campaign and planning a new phase to what he and fans call their "revolution."
The new phase of the revolution officially begins with a speech tonight in Houston and a Web video to be posted on his site, officially ending Paul's presidential campaign and freeing up the more than $4.7 million in campaign cash for investment in a new advocacy group, The Campaign for Liberty.
The new entity will be used to push a slate of libertarian-minded Republican candidates for public office in local districts nationwide, according to a description provided to ABC News by the Paul campaign. Paul also recently published a new book on his political philosophy, The Revolution: A Manifesto.
The Texas congressman's campaign to win the Republican nomination raised about $33 million in nine months, and he and his organizers hope to reignite that grassroots support for the new organization. They're setting a goal of raising $35 million over the next year.
Despite the dedication and moxie of Paul's supporters, maintaining that level of interest without the vehicle of Paul's presidential campaign could be difficult, especially given the frenetic, laissez faire interaction between Paul and his supporters through the presidential campaign. The congressman in many ways served as a figurehead, while independent actors drawn to his message did most of the organizing.
The Liberty Campaign is meant as a means for harnessing some of that energy and maintaining interest on a more micro level, by recruiting like-minded people to seek political office.
Paul, who is a medical doctor, is not ending his political career but will seek reelection to his congressional seat in Texas.
The Paul campaign itself was defined by a dedicated army of supporters, who organized independently of Paul, worked to explode "money bombs" to sustain his campaign coffers, rallied in the streets of primary states and even skirted campaign finance law to float a Ron Paul '08 blimp around much of the Eastern seabord earlier this year.
Not Getting on the McCain Bandwagon
For all the dash and creativity of Paul's supporters, his campaign never translated into large percentages of the primary vote.
Paul has repeatedly denied calls from supporters that he run for president as an independent this year. He argues that the American political system is weighted in favor of the two main political parties.
But while he is organizing his revolution within the Republican party, don't look for Paul to jump on the campaign trail with McCain.
"Although it is not his intention to hurt McCain," said Paul's campaign spokesman Jesse Benton, "he is very unlikely to endorse."
At the height of his campaign popularity, amid the early primaries and when he was raising more campaign money than any of the other Republicans, Paul made his mark at Republican debates, often sparring with McCain and former New York Governor Rudy Giuliani over foreign policy.
Paul was alone among Republican candidates calling for an end to the Iraq war and for American troops to be brought home from long-term international postings around the world.
McCain, perhaps the strongest backer of the Iraq war in Congress, has the polar opposite view. In an interview Wednesday on NBC's Today show, McCain told Matt Lauer it does not matter when American troops return en masse from Iraq as long as the number of American casualties drops.
Revolution Moves to Minnesota
The "Revolution" has a way to go before it turns the Republican party. First, it will have to get in the door.
McCain, after all, is the Republican nominee. And he'll be speaking center-stage at the national convention in Minneapolis. Organizers have not yet said whether Paul will get the opportunity to address the convention at all. And Paul is not holding his breath.
So the first official event sponsored by Paul's new Liberty Campaign will take place in Minneapolis, but decidedly outside the walls of the Republican National Convention in September.
Paul has rented Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota, which hold 11,000 seats, for September 2, smack in the middle of the Republican convention, which takes place at the Xcel Center.
He is also encouraging the delegates he won in the Republican primary — fewer than 50 — as well as Paul-leaning delegates committed to other candidates, to make their presence known at the Republican convention.
"Dr. Paul is still strongly encouraging them to take part in the GOP convention to influence the platform and represent the limited government wing of the Republican party," said Benton.
Michael Nystrom is such a delegate from Massachusetts. An independent web developer, Nystrom also runs the Web site www.dailypaul.com and was elected as an alternate Republican delegate.
And he's not alone. Nystrom speculates that close to half the delegates and alternates actually traveling from Massachusetts to the Republican convention are actually Paul supporters. And they plan to make their voices heard, even if the party won't allow Paul's to be.
"The main thing is that we can talk to other delegates and other alternate delegates and try to jawbone them about Ron Paul's message and the message of traditional Republican values," Nystrom said from his home in Massachusetts today.
And if the other delegates at the convention won't talk to him, Nystrom said he'll have a Ron Paul sign and Ron Paul stickers for all to see, unless party officials try to take those away at the door. Then, he says, he'll have to sneak them inside.
Nystrom and the other Paul-leaning Massachusetts delegates have had meetings to plot convention strategy and Nystrom said similar meetings are going on nationwide.
Technically pledged to support former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Nystrom said he was elected as a delegate by speaking out at a party delegate meeting. Nystrom did not mention Paul's name, "but I did mention his ideals, and I was elected."
He said this shows that Paul's ideals have resonance with Republican voters. "They are traditional Republican values, just not the values of the current Republican regime." Nystrom said.
"A lot of people feel alienated by this country, by this false left-right dichotomy," he said.
"We don't know about the political process in this country and its sad, I think, because the political process has been taken over by professionals," Nystrom said.