ST. PAUL, Minn. | The McCain campaign, acting through the Republican National Committee, has been negotiating with Rep. Ron Paul to win his support and acquire the names of his sympathizers among the 4,607 delegates and alternates at the Republican National Convention, according to a senior aide to the Texas congressman.
The aim is to try to win support for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket from Paul sympathizers, some of whom formally committed to Mr. Paul during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and others of whom are closet sympathizers of his libertarian brand of Republicanism.
Sen. McCain and national party strategists worry that Mr. Paul's sympathizers will vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate and former Republican congressman who shares many of Mr. Paul's views.
Mr. Paul has refused to endorse Mr. McCain, and Mr. McCain's operatives have refused to let him address the Republican National Convention.
As a result, Mr. Paul decided to hold a rally of his own Tuesday billed as the "Campaign for Liberty." Initially set to be held at the University of Minnesota's 11,000-seat Williams Arena, it has been moved to the far-larger Target Center in Minneapolis. Mr. Paul said in an interview that he expects to attract up to 18,000 people.
See Ralph Z. Hallow's exclusive interview with Mr. Paul here:
Earlier this year, the congressman shocked the party establishment by twice setting single-day fundraising records during his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
He has a donors list of about 180,000 people that Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said would do the McCain campaign no good because the loyalty of those donors is not transferable.
Mr. Benton said Mr. Paul is negotiating with convention officials - who are in effect McCain campaign representatives - for permission to make the rounds on the convention floor Wednesday in the company of his personal security guard, communications director and political aides.
Mr. Paul has said he will speak respectfully about Mr. McCain in return for the convention granting the entourage access to the floor of the Xcel Energy Center. Mr. Paul, as a member of Congress and a member of the Texas delegation, automatically has floor access for himself.
Earlier negotiations to have Mr. Paul address the convention fell through because the congressman would not change his position on the war in Iraq, which he opposes as needless and self-defeating for the United States.
He also was denied permission to address the Republican Platform Committee last week in Minneapolis, Mr. Benton said. He said Mr. Paul wanted to discuss the foreign-policy planks in the platform, but the McCain forces who controlled the platform proceedings, as well as the Rules Committee and the Credentials Committee, objected.
The McCain campaign is concerned about the impact of Mr. Paul's rally Tuesday, which is expected to attract many young, first-time voters and is being referred to in much of the press as a "counter-convention."
Mr. Paul, in an interview with The Washington Times, said he doesn't regard the event as a counter-convention so much as a big-stage training session for future cadres of the party - cadres who see the world Mr. Paul's way.
Asked whether he really thinks he can influence the party to be less hawkish on war, he said, "No, not at the upper level. You know, I'm not going to convert [Vice President] Dick Cheney. He's going to be always a neoconservative. ...
"But what we are also doing here is training thousands of people and encouraging them to be involved in precinct work, and then getting involved in the Republican Party and have an influence that way."
Some conservatives, including several prominent Republicans, privately support Mr. Paul's aim, which they see as taking the party back from its neoconservative wing and restoring it to a tradition of limited-government conservatism.
He was asked why he was holding "training events" - one of which consists mostly of music groups performing - during the convention..
"Because this is where the action is," Mr. Paul said with a smile.