TAMPA , Fla. — As she gathered with others to hear her political hero, Rep. Ron Paul, bow off the stage, Suzanne Squire cringed when she was asked whom she will vote for in the fall election.
“My heart is broken — I can’t even tell you,” the Lake Worth, Fla., resident said Sunday. “I want to write Ron Paul in, but I don’t want to throw my vote away.
“We’ve got warfare and welfare,” she said, comparing presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama. “Pick where your money’s spent on. One wants the fishing pole, the other one wants the shoe. And there’s no difference.”
She and thousands of Paul supporters gathered Sunday at the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome for Mr. Paul’s “We Are the Future Rally,” which was a way of thanking his supporters for the legendary dedication they showed throughout the Republican primaries. And many say they’ll repay Mr. Paul by sticking with him, even though he won’t be on the ballot in November.
When asked why he supports Mr. Paul, Richard Conrow, 41, of Winchester, Va., had a rather simple response.
“Why wouldn’t you?” said Mr. Conrow, who plans to vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
“He’s the only option. When the GOP loses, they can thank us. We’re doing them a service. We’re trying to save them.”
As for Mr. Obama?
“It’s unfortunate that they can’t both lose,” he said.
Mr. Paul’s backers here exemplified the eclectic cross-section of the old, the young, politicians, musicians and anti-war advocates he drew together with his libertarian message. And it was difficult to find anyone who was ready to move on.
Jen Staal, 27, of Melbourne, Fla., was also a Paul devotee, and said that even if he is not elected, his campaign would not be in vain.
“In my opinion, he’s kind of already won,” she said. “When he’s running for office for now, at least people talk. And that’s the most important thing — you gotta start somewhere.”
She, too, was technically undecided — but less so than Ms. Squire.
“I don’t want Obama to get re-elected — I will probably vote for Mitt Romney,” Ms. Staal said. “Unfortunately.”
Larry Dalton, 52, of Cherry Valley, Ill., who works in environmental services, also plans to vote for Mr. Johnson, giving his reason rather bluntly: “He’s the only one who’s not a creep.”
Mr. Dalton said he was frustrated that many people always seem to be hinting to Mr. Paul, “Why aren’t you dropping out?”
“I’ve never seen Mitt Romney asked that, and he should be asked that,” he said.
Danielle Alexandre, 33, a political analyst for the Liberty Underground radio show in Florida, said Mr. Paul’s movement was larger than the man. She, too, plans to vote for Mr. Johnson.
On “the big issues, I don’t see a big difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama,” Ms. Alexandre said. “I’m not one to support the Republicans or support the Democrats.”
But would electing Mr. Romney advance Mr. Paul’s message at all? “No,” she said, shaking her head.
“Burn in hell before you vote for that son of a bitch,” added a man standing nearby.