Ron Paul Fires Up University Of South Florida Crowd

Rep. Ron Paul, who challenged Mitt Romney during the GOP primary season, hasn't endorsed Romney. Paul won't be speaking at the convention, which upsets his supporters. At Sunday's rally, thousands cheered the loudest when Paul repeated his anti-war message, and called for an end to the Federal Reserve.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The one candidate who never gave up his primary fight against Mitt Romney was Ron Paul. And Paul appeared in Tampa, even as Tropical Storm Isaac brewed ominously outside.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: With an estimated 50,000 delegates, protestors, media, and others in the city for the convention, organizers worried the bad weather would make travel around Tampa today difficult. Florida Governor Rick Scott has been scheduled to address his fellow Republicans tonight. Instead, he's responding to the storm.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: What everybody that comes to the state knows now, is we're a state that knows how to deal with hurricane. We're ready for this convention, the city's ready for this convention, they're going to know, this is a state that knows hospitality.

BRADY: Scott has cancelled all his convention-related activities through tomorrow. Scott says his biggest concern is Florida's panhandle, well north of Tampa. He says the ground there already is soaking from Tropical Storm Debbie, and flooding could be a problem. While delegates wait for the convention to start Tuesday, there are plenty of other activities around town, like parties and political workshops.

Mitt Romney's primary challenger, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, even held a rally at the University of South Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BRADY: Thousands of supporters cheered loudest when Ron Paul repeated his anti-war message, and again called for eliminating the federal reserve system. Paul also pointed out his success in attracting young people. He told his supporters his campaign visited 33 college campuses.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL: Were they the conservative college campuses, or were they the liberal college campuses? No. They were all the college campuses, they welcomed us.

BRADY: Paul stopped actively campaigning earlier in the summer. He hasn't endorsed Mitt Romney for president, and said he may not. He won't be speaking during the convention, a fact that upsets his supporters. Paul told them the GOP should do more to bring him and them under the parties big tent.

PAUL: We'll get into the tent, believe me, because we will become the tent, eventually.

BRADY: Outside the arena, Blair Richardson says she cast her vote in 2008 for President Obama, but now she says its Ron Paul's message of protecting individual liberties that she supports.

BLAIR RICHARDSON: Instead of big government, big farm, everything big, bring it down a little bit and bring it - bring it to the people so we can make decisions again.

INSKEEP: Nearby, Jason Ford is cradling his seven-week-old son. Ford says he saw Paul on TV in 2007.

JASON FORD: Talking about the Constitution, things that were totally new to me, and I had never even read the Constitution before that. And now I have read it, and it's just a whole new world that keeps getting more and more, and I'm realizing that our country is not what it once was.

BRADY: Ron Paul is 77 years old, and he's retiring from Congress at the end of this year. While he won't play a high profile role once the GOP convention underway, there is one even that speaks to one of his signature issues. This afternoon just after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gavels the convention into session, and just before he calls a recess, he will perform one action.

A debt clock will be activated to tally up the amount of red ink the country will accumulate during the convention. Another clock will show the overall debt, estimated to be just under $16 trillion. And you can be assured that during the convention and throughout the campaign season, Republicans will do their best to tie as much of that debt as possible to President Obama. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tampa.

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