Ron Paul rally opens in Tampa; candidate called ‘a clean boat in a sea of garbage’

Mitt Romney’s big party has been delayed a day by Hurricane Isaac.

But a few miles up the road at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Ron Paul’s victory party is underway.

An enthusiastic crowd at USF’s Sun Dome is celebrating the Houston-area congressman’s career and his political legacy.

Master of ceremonies Doug Wead, a former adviser to George W. Bush, described Paul as “a clean boat in a sea of garbage.”

Libertarian economist Lew Rockwell called Paul, a three-time presidential candidate, “the greatest public figure of our time.”

“There’s no question, the Paulian movement is the future,” Rockwell told the crowd. “You wouldn’t believe how many Paulians there are in Brazil, Spain, Italy, all over the world.”

Inside the Sun Dome, the Paulian movement was in full voice. “Ron Paul Revolution” and “Hope for America” posters were everywhere. Supporters can dressed in costumes such as a red, white and blue Lady Liberty and a man in a T-shirt declaring, “Tyranny Response Team.”

Paul may not be the Republican Party’s choice this year, but his loyalists are convinced that his libertarian movement is will eventually come to dominate the GOP. Wead dismissed comments by GOP establishment figures that Paul represents an out-of-the-mainstream bloc.

Paul’s is not “the extreme wing of the Republican Party,” Wead said. The extreme wing — “they’re meeting starts tomorrow, a few miles away,” he added to the cheers of Paul loyalists.

“Well, what are we?” he asked. “It’s written on your ticket: We are the future.”

Austrian School economist Walter Block dismissed Paul’s critics on the left and right — from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to Fox News’ Sean Hannity — as “ignorant savages.” And he suggested that the 76-year-old Paul may not be through as a presidential candidate.

“It’s true, Ron will be 80 in ’16,” Block said. “But it’s a young 80.”

Richard Dunham