Ron Paul to hold rally at University

The Williams Arena rally will be during the Republican National Convention.

>U.S. Rep. Ron Paul , the Texas Republican with a strong following among college students, has ended his campaign for president, but will visit the University in September to kick off a new effort.

Paul announced his “Campaign for Liberty” last Thursday , bucking the campaign trail to start the new grassroots organization, the Texas congressman said.

The Sept. 2 event, to be held at Williams Arena, will be the official kickoff for the group.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm, people didn’t want to quit, so we started a new organization,” Paul said.

Paul dropped out of the presidential race because he lacked the delegates to compete with Sen. John McCain, who has been the presumptive Republican nominee since March, he said.

Transitioning to the new Campaign for Liberty was an easy thing for Paul, he said.

“I’m always campaigning to promote individual liberty and the Constitution,” he said.

Former Minnesota campaign coordinator Marianne Stebbins said traditional Paul supporters will rally behind the congressman and his ideas.

“Ron Paul supporters are out there doing stuff on their own all the time,” Stebbins said. “This has always been a bottom-up organization, from the grassroots up.”

Stebbins said the Campaign for Liberty will focus on supporting candidates in the same vein as the small-government Paul.

“Those are the things that Ron Paul stood for, but those are also the reasons why all these people got behind him, was because he believed in liberty and the Constitution,” Stebbins said.

University sophomore Daniel Garrison , a Paul supporter, said he plans to attend the rally.

Garrison first heard of Paul at a student group meeting.

Upon doing more research, Garrison said he became intrigued by Paul’s message.

“It’s a breath of fresh air, no cookie-cutter answers,” he said. “He brings his own ideas to the table, and I like that about him.”

University student Curt Baker , president of Students for Barack Obama , echoed Garrison.

“Obviously, he really struck a chord with a lot of conservatives who weren’t happy with what George Bush has done in the past seven years,” he said. “Most college kids were looking for something different.”

Baker said he thought Paul supporters will be inclined to vote for Obama come November.

“If the reasoning behind liking Ron Paul is because they’re sick of George Bush, then I really think that they would be inclined to vote for Barack Obama,” he said.

Paul said not to expect an endorsement of a presidential candidate any time soon, although one may come later in the fall.

His focus is now on the Campaign for Liberty, and his goal of getting 100,000 members by the Sept. 2 rally.

As of Tuesday, less than a week since its inception, over 55,000 people had signed up on the Web site.

“I’m always the most reluctant to overstate our expectations,” he said.

Paul spokesman Jesse Benton confirmed the campaign has a hold on Williams Arena and said a contract to use the arena could be finalized with the University within the next few weeks.

The rally will coincide with the Republican National Convention , to be held in St. Paul during that week.

“We want to make very clear that this is not a protest,” Benton said. “We want it to be a very positive, respectful, yet energetic event where we celebrate Republican values.”

Paul held a campaign event in Northrop Auditorium in February, which Benton said brought out 5,000 supporters. He called it the campaign’s biggest rally.

Paul had a large base among college students – according to the Secretary of State’s Web site, Paul won the Republican presidential caucus held on campus on Feb. 5.

“They perk up their ears and they start to listen and they get enthusiastic,” Paul said. “Freedom is a popular issue.”