From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
That thorn in the Republican establishment side is back.
Ron Paul's campaign is planning an event at a "large venue" with a "sizable" crowd Sept. 2 -- the Tuesday of convention week -- in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area a couple of miles from the convention site.
Paul spokesman Jesse Benton confirms this is certainly in the works but details are being worked out and not yet finalized. He wouldn't divulge the specific location because contracts have not yet been signed, though this report indicates Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota.
Paul hopes to fill the arena the day before the vice presidential nominee would speak. On that Thursday, McCain will officially be selected as the nominee.
The impetus for the mini convention of sorts was, in part, not getting a spot to speak at convention, but it "goes a lot deeper than just an invitation to speak," Benton said.
"We have said from the beginning that we are going to have a presence in St. Paul," Benton added. Paul "has said he'd be honored to have an invitation to speak. He's not holding his breath; he's not expecting one. ... No invitation was extended. We're fine with that, so we're going to go ahead and have our own event."
Paul's supporters are really "looking to build a national organization that is going to run at a grassroots level, be organized at a precinct level, and to identify candidates to support," Benton said, "real constitutionalist candidates."
Paul camp expects to have about 50 delegates to the national convention. They will attend the Paul convention and the campaign is encouraging them to go to the official GOP convention as "active and positive." But, Benton added, Paul's supporters are independent-minded and aren't going to be told what to do.
"They're free individuals, and they can do what they like," Benton said. "We want to send a message to the Republican Party, a message to return to its limited government roots ... common sense foreign policy that is non interventionist, reject the Patriot Act and move back to respecting the Constitution and rule of law."
It doesn't mean Paul is ready to abandon the Republican Party, either. Benton insisted Paul will not be running as a third- (or fourth- or fifth-) party candidate. And even though Paul will not endorse McCain -- over disagreements on foreign policy and a host of other issues -- "there's respect there," Benton said. "We're not going to to say anything negative about McCain."
"There are a lot of good things Republican Party does," Benton added, "but the Republican Party is facing some tough reality at the polls." That's because of its foreign policy and its movement away from limited government, Benton said. Paul and his supporters "are ready to work for a party and be active long term for a party that embraces" those principles.
Paul's campaign likes the Constutionalist candidate and elements of Libertarian candidate Bob Barr's platform (but likely won't endorse anyone). And Paul's certainly not going to support Obama whose "foreign policy is not much different than Sen. McCain's," Benton said.
Aside from Paul and his supporters, the campaign promises "real brand-name entertainers" at their event. Details are expected to be finalized on location (and entertainment) in the next few days.