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Scaled-Down GOP Convention Faces Competition for Attention

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 By Jim Wishner/Steve Powers, Contact
September 2, 2008

St. Paul, MN – Two major events are dueling for the attention of Republican National Convention-goers today. The convention gavels in this evening at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, while across town, Texas Congressman and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is holding a rally, too.

Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton says his candidate's message to the G.O.P. is to get back to its roots.

"We want our Constitution respected. We want our privacy and civil liberties respected. We want real limited government. We want our rights, and we want a strong, national defense where we stop policing the world."

Benton accuses the national Republican party of becoming precisely what it set out to oppose - a representative of big, intrusive government and an unbalanced budget.

"The federal government is really beginning to crowd out our state government, and the free marketplace. We want to shrink the size of the federal government, back to where the Founding Fathers envisioned it being."

Benton calls the Paul rally, which begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Target Center in Minneapolis, a celebration of traditional Republican values.

"The Republican Party is supposed to stand for limited government. It's supposed to stand for the Constitution. It's supposed to stand for the rule of law. It's supposed to stand for a strong national defense."

Capping his day-long rally, Paul speaks at 7 p.m. tonight. Meanwhile, outside the Xcel Center, a crowd of anti-war demonstrators is estimated at 8,000 to 10,000. It has been mostly peaceful, although there have been reports of violence and some arrests.

At the Republican National Convention tonight, Cyndi McCain addresses the delegates. Tomorrow, Alaska Governor and vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak; and on Thursday, John McCain will accept the party's nomination.

Republican Party leaders say they are planning events on a daily basis, however, depending on the status of the Gulf storm. Organizers have already limited some convention events in deference to Hurricane Gustav, which still threatens the Gulf Coast. President Bush cancelled his scheduled convention appearance to follow storm developments.

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