Ron Paul to avoid supporters’ dueling pre-convention rallies
By Grace Wyler
With Ron Paul effectively out of the 2012 presidential race, the ragtag coalition that propelled his dark-horse campaign is already showing signs of unraveling.
In the wake of the realization that Paul does not have enough delegates to win the Republican nomination, his supporters have split on a variety of issues, exposing latent fault lines between the diverse factions of libertarian-leaning, small-government-loving voters who had pinned their political hopes on Ron Paul.
The divisions have become increasingly apparent as Paul and his supporters plan for their last hurrah at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August. Ron Paul activists are planning competing festivals for the three days leading up to the convention, while the candidate himself has broken with the grassroots and opted to host his own rally.
The dueling activist events are the result of a schism between organizers of Paul Festival, a three-day grassroots rally-cum-music festival at the Florida State Fairgrounds that will celebrate Paul’s life and career. Although details about the falling out are hazy, several organizers have split with the Paul Festival, and decided to organize the Freedom Festival, which is set to take place just 35 miles down the road, at the Fantasy of Flight aviation attraction, over the same three days. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson — whose positions are often markedly different from those of Ron Paul — is scheduled to speak, according to the Freedom Festival website.
In an effort to control his message and rise above the grassroots chaos, Paul has decided not to attend either festival, and will instead host his own rally in Tampa on August 26, the day before the convention, campaign manager, Jesse Benton, told Business Insider. He added that the campaign has finalizing a deal with the Republican National Committee a venue for the rally.
“We have said definitively, 100%, he’s not going,” Benton said. “We’ve always planned to have our own rally before the convention.”
But several insiders close familiar with the campaign’s discussion have suggested that the rally was actually planned with some reluctance, due to concerns that would be seen as a distraction by the RNC and the Mitt Romney campaign. According to those sources, the campaign’s hand was forced when grassroots activists decided to plan their own festivals, which could distort Paul’s message — and possibly hurt his position within the Republican Party — in the critical days before the convention.
“The movement has a life of it’s own,” a source close to the Paul campaign told Business Insider. “But the rally will for sure suppress turnout for the other events.”
Still, Ron Paul’s snub is a blow to the grassroots, exposing what is perhaps the most salient split in the Movement — the growing divide between the Paul political operation and the rebel army of the Ron Paul Revolution.
“It’s obviously disappointing — we’re doing something to honor someone, so of course, we would like it if he was there,” Paul Festival organizer Bryan Siemon told Business Insider. “Ron Paul and the campaign have told us that they didn’t want to hurt our event, so there’s definitely some confusion.”
“At the same time, we understand that we did this independently, and we can’t expect him to be obligated to attend,” Siemon added. “Everyone understands that its always been about the movement, not about one person.”
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