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TAMPA, Fla. — While the opening session of the Republican National Convention has been cancelled as a precaution for approaching Tropical Storm Isaac, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the thousands of supporters who follow his message of liberty were in full force Sunday afternoon at the "We are the Future" rally.
Shouting phrases about freedom, liberty and auditing the Federal Reserve, the enthusiastic crowd of approximately 10,000 supporters packed the University of South Florida's Sun Dome, as the group attempted to provide an alternative to presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and the standard Republican way of nominating a president.
While few believe Paul will actually obtain the presidency, his message of liberty has his supporters encouraged.
"I'm hopeful and I'm believing that we're going to win this," said Ohio resident Aaron Gillum, who has helped lead grassroots efforts across the country. "It may not be this year, and it may not be next year, but we've got the momentum and we're going to do it."
Many of Paul's supporters believe his message of liberty is more than who he is as an individual person.
Mr. Rogers, from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, actually said, 'An idea is like a seed and if you plant it in the garden of your mind it will grow.' And I totally believe that because you can see the difference between 2008 and now.
Speaking about the Republican Party trying to marginalize Paul as a candidate, Florida resident and staunch Paul supporter Alison Miller said the message will come out one way or another. "They can't keep him quiet, and they need to realize that. The message is much bigger than him and they're going to lose the fight."
"We are the future and I'm grateful to be a part of it with people from across the globe. People in this country are waking up and are trying to return to our roots, saying: ‘Maybe the founders had a good idea; maybe we gave up on that too soon; maybe the Constitution is worth defending; maybe we are headed in the wrong direction,' " Gillum said. "It's a good feeling; it's a good time."
Paul criticized the Republican naysayers who say his message is too extreme — that the followers of Paul need to be under the same tent as the "mainstream" Republicans. "Believe me," Paul said, "we will get in the tent because we will become the tent eventually. With the energy that we have, it seems to me they would be begging and pleading for us to come into the party."
"Hopefully, he'll be able to change some minds of the Republicans," said Minnesota resident Jesse Johnson, who came to the rally as a way to celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary.
In the 2008 presidential race, Paul's message was relatively marginalized and overlooked, with many Republicans believing Paul's stance on the war and auditing the Federal Reserve was too extreme. However, in the four years since, many supporters have "awaken" and have seen an alternative message.
"Mr. Rogers, from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, actually said, ‘An idea is like a seed and if you plant it in the garden of your mind it will grow.' And I totally believe that because you can see the difference between 2008 and now," Virginia resident Lauren Holly said.
Although Paul hasn't said what his future plans are, many believe the 2012 presidential race will be his last. However, with Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, following in his father's footsteps, many supporters believe there will be another Paul ticket in 2016.
Maybe it's wishful thinking for many supporters, but the baton may be passed on. When Rand Paul addressed the crowd Sunday afternoon, the crowd chanted "Paul ‘16."
"I think it's going to go beyond this, especially like myself, the youth is really involved, so we're just sparking the next generation of the fighters for liberty," Miller said.
Whether Paul decides to run in the future or not, his message will likely continue to gain momentum as supporters attempt to spread his message and establish a party of liberty.