Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's supporters are now trying to organize two festivals just before the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August, although it's unclear whether either one can proceed because time is growing short to organize such large undertakings.
One group is hoping to stage "Ron Paul Festival 2012" at the Florida State Fairgrounds to celebrate Paul's life and career. The other, concerned that the original Paul Festival will not come to fruition, is hoping to stage "Freedom Festival 2012" celebrating the Constitution from a libertarian point of view. This would be in Polk County, a half-hour's drive away from the fairgrounds. Both events would start August 24 and end August 26, the day before the GOP convention kicks off, according to tampabay.com.
However, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding both festivals. James Davis, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the RNC has reserved scores of venues for that time period including the fairgrounds. Davis told me that the RNC has not yet decided what to do about the festivals.
A spokeswoman for Liberty Unleashed, the group sponsoring the Ron Paul Festival, said her organization has a signed contract with fairgrounds officials to stage their event. But Davis of the RNC said he doesn't know what that contract involves and he added that the RNC controls the venue and is still reviewing what to do about allocating space.
Sponsors say the festivals could draw 100,000 persons.
Some GOP leaders fear that the events will attract masses of die-hard Paul backers who would create demonstrations and disruptions to embarrass Mitt Romney, the presumptive party nominee who is not popular among many Paul fans. The prospect of two festivals complicates the situation even further because it appears that the sponsors are operating independently of the Paul campaign and of each other. It's not clear whether Paul will attend either of the festivals.
But Paul supporters say a refusal by the RNC to allow or facilitate the festivals would anger Paul backers and delegates, and intensify divisions in the party.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.