ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Republicans endorsed a U.S. Senate candidate at their state convention Friday, but saved their biggest reaction for Ron Paul.
To chants of "President Paul," 2,000 Minnesota convention delegates welcomed the Texas congressman and presidential candidate.
"There are a lot of friends of liberty in this town," Paul said.
Delegates accepted Paul's libertarian message.
U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills endorsed Paul and Paul endorsed Bills. The Senate candidate said he will continue to back Paul until he is out of the race.
Several convention observers said that while Paul was well received, they did not hear probable Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney mentioned during the day-long convention.
Paul, who finished second to Rick Santorum in this year's precinct caucuses, told the Republicans that it is not just their party that latches onto his ideas.
"It is much, much bigger than this," he added, saying that independents "and even Democrats" support his ideas.
Among changes he wants in Washington is reform of federal economic policy, such as the Federal Reserve Board.
"Nobody quite sees who pays for it," he said of federal spending. "The elderly suffer, the middle class suffers, the unemployed suffer."
Like in most of his speeches, Paul did not have kind words for other members of Congress who, he said, "don't have deeply held ideals," adding they mostly are interested in running for office.
Paul's Friday appearance was in stark contrast to four years ago, when he was banned from speaking to the Minnesota convention in Rochester. Instead, he talked in a light rain outside the convention center.
Many of the 2,000 convention delegates attended a state event for the first time.
For Eric Monson, 21, of Wadena, his first state political convention is important because he sees the country's government going downhill.
"To really bring change, you have to be actually involved," Monson said as fellow delegates discussed convention rules.
While he supports Ron Paul, Monson said his first priority is building the party. In some states, supporters of the Paul presidential effort have battled party regulars, but that was not evident in St. Cloud.
Sitting next to Monson, fellow Wadena County delegate Cecil Johnson was ready for political changes.
"We have got to kick the old people out," the Vietnam veteran said. "I don't care if they are Republican."
Johnson said he is not happy with how fellow Vietnam war veterans have been treated and he decided it is time for him to become politically active.
The convention opened with lots of delegates frustrated by long lines and slow traffic.
St. Cloud's four parking ramps were packed as the River's Edge Convention Center hosted its largest-ever event.
The convention center was full by the 9:22 a.m. start.
A few minutes earlier, more than 30 Republicans stood in line several blocks from the convention center waiting to pay an automated parking meter $2.25 to park for the day.
Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls, one of several lawmakers in the line, stood at the back.
"That's OK," he said of his position. "My wife is a delegate, so I have all day."
Republicans did not hold back their dislike of Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, taking every opportunity to attack.
Pete Hegseth, who finished third in the GOP campaign to unseat the Democratic senator, said he would be nervous running against Klobuchar, despite spending time in two war zones.
"You don't want to get caught between Amy Klobuchar and a photo op," he deadpanned.