Ron Paul ends campaign

HOUSTON "The campaign is going to shift gears. It's going to accelerate. It's going to get much bigger," Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press before a Houston rally. "To me, it's a technical change."


Paul formally announced the move -- his new "Campaign for Liberty" -- in a speech to supporters attending the Texas Republican Party state convention. He said he expected many at his Thursday night rally and other supporters from around the nation to attend an alternative mini-convention he's hosting Sept. 2 in Minnesota to coincide with the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

"Freedom is very popular. Not only is freedom popular, freedom works," Paul told supporters.

Hundreds of people rushed into a Houston hotel ballroom to hear Paul speak. They listened to a guitar player perform peace and freedom songs beforehand and gave loud cheers when Paul said the U.S. needs to bring home its military troops from the Middle East. They also broke into rousing applause when he spoke out for following the law and the Constitution.

He repeated his stances on other major issues, speaking against the United Nations and the income tax.

"Get more people," he urged. "They're paying attention, and it's across the political spectrum."

Paul said his political message isn't changing and that he'll continue to speak out on freedom as he has since he first ran for Congress from Texas.

"It's just now that there's so much more enthusiasm, and so many more people involved," he said. "This last year has been astounding. ... We have to keep it going."

The campaign's official ending is a formality, considering Paul won few delegates during the Republican primaries. But he raised large amounts of money online and developed a huge grassroots following.

Paul's campaign spokesman Jesse Benton said his campaign still has about $4.7 million in the bank, money which can now be used for the "Campaign for Liberty." He said the effort will be a "permanent campaign."

"We're going to work with the grassroots," Benton said. "People are really eager to continue and grow these efforts."

A Texas congressman from Lake Jackson, Paul opposes the war in Iraq and is a champion of small government. His campaign also drew support from independents and Democrats opposed to the war. His supporters have been pushing for him to have a speaking role at the GOP national convention.

But Paul has refused to endorse presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and he told the AP that isn't likely to change.

"I don't plan to," Paul said, explaining that he doesn't feel he can endorse McCain because of their disagreement on issues. "I've tried to soften that by saying 'unless he changes his position, unless he lets us brings the troops home.' "

Supporters have made stands on his behalf at state Republican conventions around the country and have fought to secure delegates for him, though he has few nationwide and none in Texas.

A group of Texas Republican activists coordinated by Paul supporter Debra Medina of Wharton County waged a court battle before the state convention began Thursday to try to force a debate of challenges to some 200 convention delegates.

Some state convention delegates who agree with Paul's views want to go to the national convention even if they are bound to McCain by state party rules.

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