Ron Paul supporters out in full force at Tea Party rally in St. Pete

Pamela Hummel, who said she was a Green Party member for 22 years, said she might consider a third party nominee, but will not vote for anybody "who is pro-war."

Echoing what Paul frequently says during the debates, Stan Kreiser asked why the U.S. has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Germany, years after the conflicts in those nations ceased. "All that money that's being spent by the troops over there, if they came back to the United States, all that money would be spent here and help our economy....this is not the Roman Empire. This is so absurd."

Several weeks ago, Paul announced that he would bypass Florida — the reasoning being that, for now anyway, the state's 50 delegates will be awarded exclusively to the winner of the January 31 primary, vs. being distributed proportionately based on the popular vote in the other early states. Since polls have indicated he wouldn't finish first, Paul will move on to Nevada, according to Dan Tucker, who campaigned for Paul in 2007-2008 and again this election cycle.

"Their vote is four days after us, they're [the other candidates] are going to be fighting here, and he's going to take Nevada," Tucker said.

One of Hillsborough County's most prominent Tea Party members, HART board member Karen Jaroch, told CL that her absentee ballot is still sitting on her desk at home, and she's having trouble deciding who to vote for in the upcoming primary.

"I've never been in this situation, where I would love to take a little bit of each candidate and kind of build one, but I'm not gung ho at the moment,"said Jaroch, who had positive things to say about all four candidates still on the ballot. Jaroch had been on the "Cain train," as she referred to her support for former pizza magnate Herman Cain.

Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock is attempting to qualify for re-election this November by petition, and stood behind a table soliciting rally-goers to sign such forms for her. Among those signing up was Pinellas House Republican Jim Frische, who discounted suggestions that the current legislative session is going to be less intense than the 2010 session. "If it were quiet, I wouldn't have needed a massage today," he said, adding that he was on the telephone until 10:30 p.m. on the PIP (personal injury protection) legislation, one of the priorities in Tallahassee this winter.

Several hundred yards away in South Straub Park were dozens of members of Occupy St. Pete, who appeared unconcerned about the events in the northern part of the park. Among the protesters was former mayoral candidate Ed Helm, who was attempting to get people to sign a "Ballot on America's Future," a letter sponsored by the group Democracy or Empire
that asks questions such as "Should the U.S. have a cabinet level Dept. of Peace?"

For nearly three years now the Tea Party in Florida has brought new energy into the Republican Party of Florida, so it makes sense as the GOP enjoys its biggest week in years that local Tea Party affiliates would begin making themselves even more visible.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon in St. Petersburg's Straub Park, as "Liberty and Justice for All: A Rally for America's Future" was presented by a host of Pinellas and Hillsborough affiliated groups, with a variety of local conservatives speaking to the audience of several hundred.

One of the lead organizers was St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip, who is expected to run for City Council next year. Also present was Dr. Richard Swier, whose controversial views were reported by CL earlier this week.

Tables were also set aside for the campaigns of the other GOP presidential candidates still on the ballot. But there was no question that there were more Ron Paul-identified supporters in the crowd than fans of any of the others still in the running — and those supporters said it was his anti-war stance that was generating that love.

But what if Paul's not the candidate in November?

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