Having won zero of 11 states so far to widely favored candidate Mitt Romney's seven, Ron Paul is a long shot for Republican presidential nominee. But, as the thousands of supporters gathered in the pouring rain on Independence Mall Sunday demonstrated, Paul is not conceding anytime soon.
"If I listened to the media, I would say he didn't have a chance," campaign volunteer Lisa Pelurie of Eddystone, Pa. said. "But I think his chances are excellent – as long as everything is on the up and up, because I believe the potential for fraud is very strong in this election."
Addressing an estimated 4,300 people, Paul likened this year's race to the American Revolution – comparing Washington's ruling "elites" with the British Empire circa 1775 – and hinted at the hope of an upset at the Republican National Convention in August. "Washington's surprise victory at Trenton led to our victory of the Revolutionary War," he said of the small battle that turned the tide in favor of the flagging American underdogs.
Perennial underdog Paul, it can only be assumed, is hanging his hopes on a similar run, first winning the battle for candidacy, then the war for president. "The campaign has four months left to it and it's not going to end the way people think," he said.
"One reason I'm convinced we'll be successful are the two things that are required are passion and intellect. We're determined to go out and fight for these battles. ... We can go out and win this."
Even if Paul's anecdotes were musty, the crowd trended young. "I think the younger generation, they're seeking the truth," one of the event organizers Rob Pepe said. "They have the tools, specifically the internet, that when they want to learn something, they can do their own research."
"Our generation is starting to realize that nearly $16 trillion in debt is robbing us from our future, from the opportunities had by previous generations," said West Chester University senior James Padilioni Jr, who said that the campus' Youth for Paul organization has seen "explosive growth." With about 1,530 members, it is the sixth largest chapter in the nation.
"Something is inspiring our younger generation," Paul said. "It has far exceeded my expectations."
"Thanks to freedom of information, instantaneous connection provided by the internet, we've beginning to question everything we've been taught to believe," Padilioni said. "We're discovering the empire is out of money and the emperor has no clothes."
"The information is getting out, the truth is getting out and thank goodness for the internet," Paul echoed.
Generation of torchbearers
Now on his third presidential primary race, Paul said that though he's in it to win it, he's also pleased with the wider-reaching effects of his efforts. He cited an "intellectual movement" touched off by his 2007 campaign as a political game changer, if not for him, then for the country in general as his supporters wage their own actions.
"That's where I've been encouraged," he said, adding that he was surprised at how many devotees he met that were "running for office through their own organizations."
"This proves that not only is our campaign alive and well, but this country is going to be changed," he said of the afternoon's crowd and called his previous bids the "first stage of what the revolution is about."
"I don't know exactly what the outcome [of the election] will be, but I do know the spirit of liberty will continue," he said. "Brush fires of liberty have been lit in the hearts and minds of many people. We're no longer a minority."
Paul was available to speak briefly after the rally in a small plastic tent shielding him from the steady drizzle. His responses were often drowned out by chants of "President Paul!" booming from the long line of supporters gathered outside to catch a glimpse.
When asked why, after fourteen years of successive losses, he continued to run for the seat, he gestured to the space between the tent flaps where the cries drifted in. "People," he said. "People, energy and enthusiasm."
Entertainment was provided by guitarist and singer Jordan Page, who said it was his 12th time opening for Paul. Page played riffs on classics like Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," its lyrics altered to, "Hey, Obama / Leave my kids alone":
He also played Paul's campaign anthem, "The Light of Revolution":