Remember the Mitt Romney/Ron Paul conspiracy? So much for that. On the eve of the Republican National Convention, just-about-former Republican presidential candidate Paul told John Harwood of the New York Times that he was only invited to speak in Tampa if he gave the party’s nominee his full endorsement. 

As Harwood wrote:

Mr. Paul, in an interview, said convention planners had offered him an opportunity to speak under two conditions: that he deliver remarks vetted by the Romney campaign, and that he give a full-fledged endorsement of Mr. Romney. He declined.

“It wouldn’t be my speech,” Mr. Paul said. “That would undo everything I’ve done in the last 30 years. I don’t fully endorse him for president.”

Connor Simpson of the Atlantic Wire dubbed this “an extortion plot,” but Harwood’s story is about the larger question: what do Paul’s supporters do now, and what role will his libertarian-leaning beliefs play in the party from here on out?

Paul’s son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, did endorse Mitt Romney, which, as Harwood noted, makes him a more mainstream figure but also less popular with some of his father’s core supporters. 

In any case, Paul held his own rally on Sunday, and for once, his timing was spot-on. As Slate‘s David Weigel wrote:

The threat of Hurricane Isaac was scrapping the first day of the Republican National Convention. Reporters who had planned to preview day one were screwed. Editors suddenly remembered that Ron Paul was supposed to do something or other. And off they went to the Sun Dome, the arena at Southern Florida University, where 7000-odd people would join the “We Are the Future Rally.”

“Believe me, we will get in the tent because we will become the tent eventually,” Paul said, as Jason M. Volack of ABC News reported. “With the energy that we have, it seems to me they would be begging and pleading for us to come into the party.”

Volack also wrote that Paul was “animated and witty,” and the rally “sometimes resembled a rock concert. Fans wearing shirts with his name and image stood under colorful lights drinking tap beer and listened to Blues Traveler frontman John Popper perform ahead of Paul’s remarks.”

(Texas’s own Jimmie Vaughan was the rally’s headliner.)

Weigel also has a groovy photo roundup of various and sundry Ron Paul souvenirs and sundries, including funny posters, silver tokens, and, as Weigel put it, “several Paul’d out cars,” from the separate, unofficial P.A.U.L. Fest.