As 77-year-old Ron Paul retires and brings his campaign to an end, he is refusing an opportunity to speak at the Republican National Convention to avoid endorsing Mitt Romney.
The 12-term libertarian Texas congressman staged a valedictory rally on Sunday before 10,000 supporters at the University of South Florida, before ending his campaign. Paul won 177 delegates to this year’s RNC, beating all other contenders aside from Romney and Rick Santorum. While Paul didn’t reach the numbers needed to make it to the White House, he is still leaving behind a movement of believers in the policies he preached.
“He was talking on a deeper level, and that opened my eyes. I feel like we’re his voice, we’re his legacy,” Paul activist Ashley Nicole York, 26, told the Christian Science Monitor.
Another one of his supporters, 26-year-old Antonio Rivera, said the congressman “enlightened” him on health-care policy, immigration and workings of the Federal Reserve.
“A lot of people say it’s the end of the Paul movement,” Rivera said. “But I think it’s just the beginning.”
Before leaving the spotlight, Paul said he wanted to bring his principles to college campuses with his “We Are the Future” rally and emphasize the importance spreading his movement's influence.
Since Paul finished second to Romney in the New Hampshire primary, he is not able to address the convention. But the Romney campaign offered him an opportunity to give a speech – as long as it was approved by Romney’s staff and endorses the Republican nominee for president.
Paul rejected the offer on the basis that it wouldn’t align with his beliefs.
“It wouldn’t be my speech,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “That would undo everything I’ve done in the last 30 years. I don’t fully endorse him for president.”
Even without giving a final speech at the RNC, Paul is leaving his policy beliefs and ideas with a number of successors. His son, Sen. Rand Paul, is likely to continue some of his father’s fights in Congress. In Tampa, 21-year-old Paul supporter Ashley Ryan told the Times she will take over as Maine’s national committeewoman after sitting as Paul’s delegate at the RNC.
He has also garnered increasing support from American voters. This election, Paul received two million voters at Republican nominating contests, which is five times the number he received in 1988. This is a significant number considering that only 10 percent of registered voters are libertarians.
Additionally, half of his votes were from people under the age of 45.
“The young people have to start connecting with the older people,” he said.
As Paul leaves the stage standing true to his beliefs and refusing to endorse Romney, his supporters are optimistic about carrying on the movement he started many years ago.
"We used to say most people found libertarianism by reading Ayn Rand," David Boaz of the Cato Institute told the Times. "In the last five years, most people have found libertarianism by listening to Ron Paul."