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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Ron Paul Rocks CPAC

February 19, 2010 - 5:52 PM | by: Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Rep. Ron Paul, former Republican presidential candidate and leading light of the current libertarian grassroots movement, enjoyed a huge rock star moment at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), as he took the stage Friday to thunderous applause and a standing ovation in a ballroom filled to capacity.

Just two years ago, before the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Paul was practically persona non grata — this conservative movement had disdained his warnings about economic collapse and his belief that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were unconstitutional and counterproductive. At the Republican National Convention, some of his delegates were silenced from declaring their vote during the main roll call. Paul himself — a sitting congressman — had his access to the floor restricted.

Times have changed. His movement has raised millions of dollars despite his failed candidacy and has gone on to grow grassroots organizations, including the Campaign for Liberty, which made sure it had a huge presence at CPAC this year. Though some libertarians who spoke with Foxnews.com said there are plenty of areas where they disagree, they have felt a better reception at CPAC this year, generally.

Paul has a lot to do with that. After sharing his long-held views on the war — “an unconstitutional war costs a lot of money and undermines the constitution. If you like small government, you need to work hard to have a strong national defense that is not so militant and not pretend we can tell the rest of the world how to live” — he found more common ground with the movement conservatives on economic issues.

But he reminded the audience that freedom doesn’t “only come in pieces” — the constitution protects both economic liberty and personal liberty. “For those who might disagree, I just urge you to think about it seriously.”

Paul seemed to want to bridge the long divide and was willing to make his case for the greater cause. “Something is coming together, something is brewing. Something big is going to come out of what is going on today.”