The Tampa Bay area is being inundated by politically active people from all across the land this weekend — but not all of them are Mitt Romney supporters.
At the Florida Fairgrounds Friday afternoon, Paul Festival 2012 commenced at the Expo Hall shortly after 1 p.m, and slowly but steadily members of the Paul brigade flocked to the fairgrounds, where they intend to stick around for the entire weekend soaking up that Libertarian spirit (in fact, some are camping at the Fairgrounds).
Shortly before 3 p.m., Jason Rink, author of Ron Paul: Father of the Tea Party, took to the stage. Like many disciples of the retiring Texas Congressman, Rink said he didn't know anything about Ron Paul until he ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2007. He looked him up on the Internet, and "a seed was planted in my mind that would eventually expand and radically change my worldview."
He said that studying Paul forced him to come to terms with what he realized were "serious inconsistencies" within his view of the world.
"I would support missionaries in foreign lands through my church, but I endorsed politics that supported military invasions of those same lands.That was an inconsistency. I was pro life when it came to the unborn, but I was pro death when it came to children of the Middle East… I had to reconcile that I was supposed to love my neighbor as myself, but I still endorsed legislating morality," he recounted.
Ron Paul fans have traveled from far and wide to Tampa to be with their like-minded compatriots.
Ryan says Paul's vow to abolish the Federal Reserve is an idea that turns him on. "Get back to the gold and silver standard," he says. "Follow the Constitution when it comes to issuing money."
Ryan is a serious fan of the Second Amendment. He supports Americans carrying firearms anywhere and everywhere, and says things would have turned out differently in that movie theater in Aurora, Colorado last month if an armed citizen had been able to confront James Holmes. "If someone was in there, a good citizen that knew how to use a gun… maybe it would have taken care of [it] right there and then and ended more bloodshed."
A young African-American woman named Connie traveled from Cookville, Tennessee (about 80 miles from Nashville) to check out the Paul Festival. She admitted she knew nothing about the congressman until her friend introduced her to his ideology recently, "and I agreed 100 percent." Connie says she can't stand either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.
He said he typed "Austrian economics" into YouTube because he had heard that term used in reference to Paul's philosophy. He then began reading about Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff and was further inspired.
"You get one seed of liberty and it plants," he said. "And then it grows and grows and grows, and now I can school an economic major in the Keynesian thought pretty easily, and I'm just a nobody."
Cunningham is dismissive of the Republican Party for what he says has been a disrespectful attitude toward Paul and his followers, referring to a lack of sufficient attention during the 20 GOP presidential debates that began over a year ago.
And he believes there isn't much difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama. "He doesn't stand a chance against Obama," Cunningham says of the presumptive GOP nominee. "He wrote 'ObamaCare' pretty much, in its original form."
On Friday morning Romney senior adviser Russ Schriefer announced that there will be a filmed tribute to Ron Paul taking place Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention. Cunningham was pleasantly surprised to learn that news, but said it would be better if Paul had been allowed to speak live in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, as Dr. Paul's son Rand will do Monday night.
Then again, Rand Paul endorsed Mitt Romney. Ron Paul never did.
The Paul Festival continues through Sunday evening. Ron Paul will not make an appearance there, but he will be making a speech at the USF Sun Dome Sunday afternoon which will be simulcast at the festival.