WASHINGTON - There's no room at the Xcel Energy Center for maverick Ron Paul, so his acolytes have packed their cars, hitched rides on "Ronvoys" and will pitch tents at Ronstock '08 in Minneapolis in defiance of next week's GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Almost 9,800 tickets had been sold for the Rally for the Republic, which seeks to bring together activists who are anti-war, anti-government regulation, anti-immigration, anti-taxes, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-outsourcing, pro-individual liberty, pro-civil liberties and pro-Paul.
The Ronvoys — fleets of buses and vans carrying Paul's loyalists — were to begin arriving Saturday. A few rally-goers planned to walk from Green Bay, Wis., and join up with Paul for the final miles of their Walk4Freedom. Other attendees are driving, carpooling or flying in for the convention alternative.
Paul, a Texas congressman who failed in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, considers the rally a celebration of traditional Republican values of limited government — and a poke in the eye of the GOP. They don't plan to crash the Republican party, but to show they and their Campaign for Liberty are not going away.
"No matter how much our message is ignored or ridiculed, as was done in the campaign, no matter how much they did to us, it only energized our grass roots," Paul said.
The rally builds on Paul's presidential bid, in which he set a record for single-day fundraising on the Web and touched a nerve with some disaffected voters, largely in the Republican Party.
In a few Western states, Paul was a serious contender for votes, placing second ahead of Republican John McCain in Nevada and Montana. He drew 14 percent from McCain in New Mexico, a battleground state.
But Paul has no speaking role at the GOP convention. He said his staff made overtures to the party, but nothing came of its efforts.
Republican Party spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said she had to research whether Paul was invited to speak when asked about a convention role for Paul.
"Our focus is really on this side of the river," Burgos said. "We think there's enough excitement and energy on this side." McCain's campaign spokesman did not return a phone message.
Paul's faithful still hope to permeate the ranks of the establishment by winning local and state races and pulling in disenchanted party members. There are a couple dozen Paul delegates attending the GOP convention, though some loyalists say there are more delegates who support Paul.
Meanwhile, their focus is on their own political convergence in Minneapolis.
"We only want to cause noise in the sense of letting people know there are other movements out there that other people believe in," said Kathleen Buchholz, 28, of Denver. Unable to take time off from school for the rally, Buchholz is attending Tuesday's events, when Paul will speak. She's bypassing sleep to save on hotel costs and flying out early Wednesday.
Rally organizers reported last week they sold all 500 tickets priced at $85 each for their Real Politics Training School scheduled for Sunday. Attendees will learn political-organizing skills and "how to compete and win at the political game," organizers said on the rally Web site.
Speakers at the Paul rally include former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, tax activist Grover Norquist, former California Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., political commentator Tucker Carlson, former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and the baby-delivering doctor supporters call Dr. Paul.
A few entertainers also are joining in, such as country star Sara Evans; pop singer Aimee Allen, known for the song "Cooties" from Hairspray but whose favorite song among rally-goers is "Ron Paul Anthem"; and Texas blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.
Paul backers who aren't staying at the Minneapolis hotel or a budget motel planned to bunk in group cabins at Camp Ihduhapi on Lake Independence, park RVs or pitch tents at campgrounds or head to a Goodhue, Minn., dairy farm for Ronstock '08, an imitation of the 1960s Woodstock counterculture festival. Organizers there say a neighbor of the farm's owner is donating a cow to feed the flock.
Sonny Thomas of Springboro, Ohio, plans to drive 12 hours to attend the rally, leaving Sunday. He was offering in a Web posting to fit one or two others in his car.
"I feel as one person who stands up, I have a voice and letting it be heard sends fear to the establishment," said Thomas, a gas station manager who was laid off a previous job.