TAMPA — Ron Paul gave what might be the last major keynote of his career before several hundred delegates and thousands of supporters here on Sunday evening, offering up a 77-minute tour de force of his libertarian philosophy.

Paul has never been one to pull punches or moderate his message, but he defended his foreign policy — the one thing he’s always been exhorted to moderate — in unusually strong terms, and attributed his political success to his intractability. And no, he did not give even a qualified endorsement of Mitt Romney.

“If I didn’t have the foreign policy [views] I do, I don’t think we would be here tonight.”

Later, after comparing Bradley Manning to New York Times journalist Daniel Ellsberg, author of the Pentagon Papers, he delivered what might have been the most controversial line of the night, “Somebody rather nastily said on the Internet the other day , ‘if those Paul people had been in charge, Osama Bin Laden would still be alive.’ But you know what I think the answer is? So would the 3000 people [killed] from 9/11, be alive!”

But while Paul was at the top of his rabble-rousing game, he threw the crowd a few more highbrow literary references than is his usual style. First to Nock’s Remnant, an analogy, he said, that Paul’s legions of young supporters had rendered incomplete. And second, to Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, which he tied to government dependency and growth of the corporatist state, the “seeds of an authoritarian society.”

“The really big question that I think we have to decide upon is which way we’re going to go,” he closed, echoing many of the same themes. “We see the end of an era, so where are we going to go? I think the choice is one of two. I don’t think another Marxist is gonna come along and restore enthusiasm for Marxism. I don’t think we’re going to have the same thing as Hitler or Mussolini, but I do think we have to worry about fascism. An expansion of what we already have, which is corporatism. The buddy system between big corporations, big banks, and the government.”

Other figures of the liberty movement were on hand to celebrate the end to Paul’s campaign, including Rep. Justin Amash, who cited the Republican Party’s libertarian turn on a Fed audit and counseled the crowd, “this movement is Ron Paul’s legacy, it’s our job to grow it into the majority movement it could be.”

Paul’s son Rand, the Kentucky Senator, promised to call for an audit of the Pentagon in his speech to the RNC on Wednesday. Jim Antle writes here on Rand’s difficult balancing act of carrying the torch for his father’s ideas and making his presence felt in the GOP.

South Carolina state senator Tom Davis gave a fiery speech about the dangers of inflation, calling Ben Bernanke “a traitor, a dictator” and promising to work hard to unseat tax-hikes-for-bombs Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in 2016.

Paul campaign blogger and former TAC contributor Jack Hunter also addressed the crowd about midway into the rally, highlighting the libertarian roots of American conservatism, and suggesting that after costly wars and unprincipled entitlement expansions and bailouts, “we’re trying to make the conservative movement conservative again.”

Paul also joked that the RNC had offered him an hour-long speaking spot on Monday, when the convention isn’t officially in session. Reince Priebus will gavel in the RNC this afternoon, then it will adjourn until tomorrow. The threat of Isaac is fading somewhat as the storm tracks out toward the Gulf and Louisiana.

Catch Ron Paul’s entire speech here. More libertarian pre-convention coverage:

Brian Doherty on the Paulitespost-campaign plan, noting the sign-wavers who remained on street corners around the stadium even after the rally ended.

Dave Weigel on the rally, and the understandable if farfetched view of many Paul disciples that the Republican Party’s attempts to freeze them out of state nominating contests actually cost him the nomination.

Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray interviews Ashley Ryan, the youngest member of the RNC.

Other TAC convention coverage:

Michael Brendan Dougherty on the GOP ticket that might have been.
Daniel Larison on the GOP’s new “winner-take-all” rules.
Kelley Vlahos on hysterical fears of convention anarchy.
Flashback: Jim Antle on 2008′s Rally for the Republic.

Previous coverage of PAULfest here.