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Ron Paul's presence to be felt in Tampa

Despite the delegates he won during the Republican presidential primary season, Ron Paul won't be speaking at next week's Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.

But his presence will be felt there -- whether it's his supporters who will be flocking to the city or his son Rand, who will be speaking at the convention.

And there's also the possibility of a video tribute to the Texas congressman.

"We're told there's something special in the works on Tuesday paying tribute to Ron Paul," said Jesse Benton, Paul's national campaign manager.

Richard Clement / Reuters

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, questions Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke (not pictured) during his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this July 21, 2009 file photo.

Rand's big speech
Perhaps the most high-profile Paul-related event at the convention will be Monday's primetime speech by Rand Paul, the freshman U.S. senator from Kentucky.

The last time Ron Paul actually attended a Republican National Convention was in 1976, when he led the Texas delegation as one of only four congressmen to endorse Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford. And joining him on the convention floor was his son, Rand, who then was 13 years old.

Now the roles are sort of reversed.

“Rand will be speaking on Monday,” Benton said. “And Ron will be watching his son’s speech from someplace inside the venue.”

The speech the RNC "doesn't want the rest of America to hear"
Ron Paul will be speaking in Tampa, too -- just not at the convention.

On Sunday, he will deliver a keynote address to supporters at the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome at the campaign’s “We are the Future Rally,” which runs from noon to 6:00 pm ET. The sold-out venue seats 11,000, and Paul will deliver a speech he says “the Republican National Convention doesn’t want the rest of America to hear.” 

“The rally on Sunday is a celebration of our delegates and how far we’ve come,” Benton added. “So much of our message is being embraced by the Republican Party.”

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In what was supposed to be a show of strength, the campaign originally planned to load its delegates on buses after the rally and take them to the RNC Welcome Reception at Tropicana Field so the group can “make a grand entrance.”

“This is our opportunity to show that we are the future of the Republican Party,” Paul wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month.

But that plan had to be changed this week due to logistics surrounding the high security at the venue. Paul-supporting delegates can acquire their own transportation to attend the official GOP welcome party or postpone mingling with rank and file Republicans to attend a “Liberty Rocks” after party being thrown by the campaign at Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill in Tampa. 

The after-party is open to everyone, and the more than 1,500 supporters expected to show up will be entertained by blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and John Popper from the Blues Traveler. In addition, delegates and alternates who are Paul supporters have been invited to a private reception with the Texas congressman before that party begins.

“For many, it’s not a choice,” one Paul staffer organizing the event said. “Delegates have a rare opportunity for a private reception with Dr. Paul and have their photo taken with him.”

The next morning, Paul will attend a fundraising breakfast sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa.  The state’s GOP Chairman, A.J. Spiker, was a co-chair of Paul’s Iowa campaign and the unbound delegation from the Hawkeye state includes a majority of Paul supporters. 

Later on Monday, Paul will greet his supporters at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. 

A video tribute?
According to the campaign, the RNC is planning a special tribute to the 77-year-old Paul on the second night of the convention, which would mark a change in the party’s attitude towards the Texas congressman who has run for president three times and has started a small revolution inside the Grand Old Party. 

Convention organizers have not responded to repeated requests for confirmation, and the official schedule released for Tuesday makes no mention of a tribute to Paul. However, there are spots on the schedule labeled “Segment to be announced,” as well as “videos” during the evening –- which supporters believe will be where the party will place the tribute.

Asked if Paul will stick around to watch Romney’s acceptance speech on Thursday, Benton says that’s “still up in the air.”

Paul-supporting delegates attending the convention have been advised to be respectful, defend their positions, and don't be “pushed around.” Many are excited to see other Paul supporters from across the country and will attempt to introduce themselves to other Republicans. 

“There’s been a lot of confusion on what we represent,” said Carl Bunce, Paul’s Nevada state chair and delegate to the convention. “We’ll be going to some of the cocktail parties and getting our message out there. We have to let people know what type of people we are versus the stereotype.”

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Crafting the RNC's platform
Another delegate attending the convention, Chris Stearns, was Paul’s Virginia State director and has been tasked by the campaign to lead efforts on the RNC platform committee.

“This is going to be a very significant business trip for me,” Stearns said. “I’m looking forward to helping craft the platform with Dr. Paul’s message of constitutional government, making sure it’s well represented in the party platform.”

As to whether a majority of the party has accepted some of those views, including auditing the Federal Reserve and requiring a formal declaration of war before committing military forces overseas, Stearns seems confident that message has become mainstream.

“Everybody that I’ve dealt with has been very approachable, very friendly and it’s amazing. The Republicans in this country have really shifted from the Bush era … and are taking constitutional- and liberty-minded principles very seriously.”

This week, delegates included planks to the Republican Party’s 2012 platform draft that embrace some longtime goals of Dr. Paul’s -- an annual audit of the Federal Reserve and the creation of a commission to consider returning the U.S. dollar to the gold standard -- which will be voted on by the full convention next week. 

Reacting to the inclusion of his dad’s policy goals into the Republican document, Sen. Rand Paul wrote, “This is great news and is long overdue.”

Citing a quote from playwright Victor Hugo that his dad frequently used on the campaign trail, Sen. Paul added: "'You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.’ The time for Fed transparency has come.”