WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Republicans gather to nominate John McCain for president in St. Paul next week, don’t expect former rival Ron Paul to cheer him on.
Unlike other former candidates like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman wasn’t given a speaking slot at the convention — in fact, he says the McCain campaign tried to bar him from the convention floor entirely.
“I didn’t expect much and I didn’t get much, because they don’t want somebody there who will emphasize where they’re coming short,” he said in an interview.
Instead, Paul plans a rally of his own at a basketball arena across the river in Minneapolis, along with training sessions for his supporters who want to more effectively push the Republican party toward his antiwar, small-government ideals.
“They’re lining up for the next fight, and they’re going to have better numbers and they’re going to know the rules better,” he said.
But Paul said he would not endorse anyone seeking to challenge Republican incumbents in Congress.
“It’s just not the kind of thing I think I should do,” he said. “There’s a certain political comfort of just getting along with people.”
Paul’s opposition to the Iraq war drew sharp rebukes from his fellow Republican presidential candidates at debates in 2007 and earlier this year.
He attracted a passionate, net-savvy following that helped his presidential campaign raise a surprising $35 million, but he did not win any state nominating contests and formally abandoned his campaign in June, months after McCain had locked up the nomination.
Paul has refused to endorse McCain and said he won’t vote for the Arizona senator or his Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in the November 4 election.
Instead, he’s considering third-party candidates, though he said he won’t tell his followers who they should vote for.
A former Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1988, Paul offered praise for this year’s Libertarian candidate, former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr.
“It’s sort of like asking me if there’s a better person than myself to deliver the message I tried to deliver, and I say sure, there’s probably plenty,” he said. “I think he does a good job.”
Paul also praised another third-party candidate, Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party.
Paul is not likely to affect the outcome of the election, said Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson.
“The people who are most committed to him tend to be principally small-government, traditional Republicans, who may well sit this election out because John McCain does not support their positions,” Jillson said.
Paul remains committed to his views. A longtime advocate of abolishing the Federal Reserve, he said that even if the central bank has kept the economy from tumbling into recession, it will only prolong the pain by making credit too easily available.
He said regulation has made the housing crisis worse.
“It’s also the so-called affirmative action programs that the government passes to say, ‘Well, you must make loans to certain people that want to buy houses,’” he said. “We need less regulation by the government, but more regulation by the market.”
Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Editing by Anthony Boadle