(TAMPA, Fla.) — Former GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul has declined to endorse Mitt Romney, but his son Sen. Rand Paul will soon hit the campaign trail to support the newly-minted Republican nominee.
“We are hoping to help Gov. Romney get elected,” Rand Paul told ABC News’ Jon Karl after wrapping up his speech at the GOP convention Wednesday night.
The younger Paul said he is working out the logistics of appearing at campaign events for Romney between now and November.
“They’ve asked me to go places and I’m happy to,” he said.
During a convention aimed at uniting Republicans and stoking enthusiasm leading into the last two months of the election, a rift seems still to exist within the party between a small but vocal group of ardent Ron Paul fans and the larger crowd of Romney supporters.
Shortly after Rand Paul wrapped up his speech, a boisterous group of about 100 Ron Paul supporters marched through the second floor of the convention hall shouting “So Maine goes, so goes the nation.”
The protesters, most of which were wearing Ron Paul shirts and buttons, said they were upset the Republican National Committee stripped Ron Paul’s Maine delegates of their convention seats.
Ron Paul was not given a speaking spot at the convention, as his fellow former GOP candidate Rick Santorum was, but Paul was the only Romney rival who was honored in a tribute video, which played directly before his son Rand took the stage. One of the largest applause lines during Rand Paul’s speech came when he mentioned his dad.
Ron Paul did not watch the video from the forum or anywhere in Tampa for that matter. The campaign said last week that the congressman would stay for both his video, originally scheduled for Tuesday, and for a speech by his son, but instead chose to skip out and head back to Texas.
The three-minute video featured clips of Paul, his wife Carol, and son Rand, and included several of his colleagues giving testimony to his “principles and his dedication to America.”
“The longer we go and the deeper in debt we get, the more apparent it is that Ron Paul was right all those years,” says Sen. Jim DeMint in the video adding that he thought Paul “was nuts” when they first met.
“Whether people want to admit it or not, Ron Paul changed the conversation,” adds Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Convention planners approved the video as an olive branch to the more than 300 Paul delegates that the congressman collected during his long primary battle with Mitt Romney.
“Congressman Paul’s people came to us and said we’d like to do a short tribute to him, and we said absolutely,” Mitt Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer told reporters last week.
Schriefer said that while Romney and Paul “certainly disagree on many issues,” the one time rivals had “a lot of mutual respect” for each other.
The Romney campaign still has some appeasing to do. Earlier this week, Paul supporters stormed out of the convention because of the dispute over the Maine delegation. His supporters were also upset about new rules that would allow the party establishment to reject certain delegates and to make rule changes with a supermajority of votes. The concern: Republican Party leaders are taking power from the grass roots.
Ron Paul told ABC News last week that it is a “possibility” that his son Rand would take his place as a leader of the supporters who have so diligently supported him through this year’s presidential campaign, as well as his two previous White House bids.
“I’m sure he’s the one who will finally make that decision on what he does and how far he goes, but I’m sure he’s interested and very much involved in trying to promote these ideas,” Ron Paul said.
While Rand Paul would not say whether a presidential run was in his future, the senator said after his speech on Wednesday that he does “see myself as part of the national debate.”
“Being in the Senate is part of the national debate,” he said. “If that’s all I do then I’m really pleased to do it. But there may be more. We’ll see.”
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