Mary White of Rathdrum, Idaho, shows her support for Rep. Ron Paul, (R-Texas),… (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo )
TAMPA, Fla. — The looming hurricane may have dampened the Republican convention Sunday, but not the Ron Paul rally.
Miles away from the barricaded convention center site in downtown Tampa, a robust and typically energized crowd was convention-ing away at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome.
"Ron Paul! Ron Paul!" the near-capacity crowd cheered, thundering through the indoor arena long before the libertarian-leaning congressman was even scheduled to take the stage.
"I am Ron Paul," announced a handmade banner hanging from the railing from the midsection seats. One attendee's T-shirt, in the movement's trademark black, summed up the sentiment: "Ron Paul Is My President."
PHOTOS: Preparations for the GOP convention
The GOP presidential contender and the family brand he has created have long posed a dilemma for the Republican Party — drawing legions of young and passionate voters to politics but pushing views the GOP has only partly embraced.
The Paul campaign tests the party's big-tent capabilities as delegates continue to pledge their support to candidate Mitt Romney.
That divide was evident here Sunday.
Just the mention of former candidate Rick Santorum, the socially conservative GOP leader, brought boos from the arena crowd for his views, while that of Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a tea party favorite, drew hollers of support.
Even as the party distances itself from Paul's campaign, the political power of the congressman can be felt here and in Washington.
His son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, was given a speaking role at the official convention — though with the threat of Hurricane Isaac shelving Monday's official events it is unclear if his address will be rescheduled.
At the same time, the House this summer overwhelmingly approved the congressman's hard-fought legislation to audit the Federal Reserve. It had been among the first bills the elder Paul introduced after first arriving in Congress more than two decades ago.
PHOTOS: The protests of the GOP convention
At 77, Ron Paul, who celebrated his birthday last week, is not running for reelection to Congress this year.
The arrival at his rally Sunday of the younger Paul, a first-term senator elected on the 2010 tea party wave, prompted an announcement from the stage. Supporters lined up to see him.
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook