This story was written by Kevin Robillard, The Diamondback
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) appeared before a crowd of several hundred cheering, applauding fans last night at the Comcast Center.
As Paul walked up to the podium, he waved his arms for quiet. Silence filled the room. He began his speech and mentioned the suspension of his presidential campaign.
One voice could be heard above his speech and the crowd: "Write-in!"
While Paul's supporters may not be large in number, they definitely never give up.
Paul, a former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, endorsed five Maryland congressional candidates in the Comcast Center's Pavilion Gym last night to a crowd of about 250. While Paul's views may place him outside the mainstream of his party (withdrawal from Iraq) and of American politics (abolishing the Federal Reserve, withdrawing troops from Germany, Korea, and Japan), his followers are exceptionally devoted.
No presidential campaign except perhaps Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made as much use of the Internet as Paul's did. There, his supporters organized meetings, planned events, and shared information and enthusiasm.
University of Maryland junior business major Alan VanToai sent Facebook invitations to dozens of people for Paul's speech on the campus last night.
"I wouldn't do that for anybody else but Ron," he said before Paul's speech. "I'm super anxious."
Mike Davis, a member of Maryland Students for Liberty who introduced Paul, said in a speech he used to not care about politics.
"That all changed when I head Ron Paul speak last year at the first Republican debate and he said things that actually made sense," he said.
Anthony Salvato, a sophomore computer engineering major, had a similar experience after seeing videos of Paul's speeches online.
"I thought to myself, 'Wow, this guy makes sense,'" he said while in the VIP room before the event, which he paid $150 to enter for the chance to meet Paul.
Maryland Students for Liberty President (no relation to Mike) Brian Davis expressed the one core belief that unifies Paul's supporters: "They don't need people in Washington to tell them what to do."
Paul's main purpose was to lend support to Republican congressional candidates, such as Richard Matthews, a 28-year-old running for congress in the state's 2nd Congressional District. Matthews started out as a Ron Paul meetup organizer last year.
Matthews was one of the five candidates Paul endorsed - all of whom share Paul's beliefs about limited governmental intervention in economy, non-interventionist foreign policy and civil libertarianism.
For all the candidates, the recent bailout of the financial system passed by congress was a major topic of contention.
"When you marry big business with big government, you get close to what they call fascism," said Mike Hargadon, a university alumnus who is running for congress in the 7th district.
They also shared an urgent belief that the financial system needed to be overhauled quickly.
"Get what you really want. Comfortable shoes. WHY? You'll be needing them for the bread lines," reads a flier handed out by 4th District Congressional Candidate Peter James, who spent a significant portion of his speech during the rally ranting against bankers for causing the financial crisis.
The candidates were confident of their chances of beating Democratic incumbents, some of whom have been office for decades or hold high-ranking party positions.
But although all the candidates Paul endorsed were Republicans, the College Republicans dropped their original sponsorship of the event.
"We concluded that with him working against our party, we couldn't support him, nor would we want to," College Republicans President Chris Banerjee said. Paul declined to endorse Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the presidential race, instead giving his support to a variety of third-party candidates.
But though the congressional candidates had their applause lines, the crowd was there for Paul, who was given a minute-long standing ovation when he walked into the gym.
Paul praised the young people who had gotten involved in his campaign and told them to "study hard" so they would be able to defend free-market philosophies.
"A revolution is coming," he said. "It's stirring in the land."
Staff writer Allison Stice contributed to this report.