As expected, Ron Paul’s big announcement at the National Press Club today turned out to be as anti-climatic as I anticipated:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas called on voters to back a third-party candidate for president Wednesday, rejecting his party’s nominee and offering equally harsh words for the Democratic candidate.

Paul, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination this year, told supporters at the National Press Club in Washington that he is not endorsing GOP nominee Sen. John McCain or Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Instead, Paul will give his seal of approval to four candidates: Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.

Paul said he’s supporting the third-party candidates because the two major parties and media had “colluded” to avoid discussing issues and falsely presenting the difference between McCain and Obama as real.

“I’ve come to the conclusion, after having spent many years in politics, is that our presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else, and I think that is true today. It is a charade,” he said.

Paul offered an open endorsement to the four candidates because each signed onto a policy statement that calls for “balancing budgets, bring troops home, personal liberties and investigating the Federal Reserve,” an aide to the congressman said.

Paul said a strong showing by the third-party candidates would express the public’s frustration with the current system.

“I have no doubt that the majority is on our side,” Paul added, citing public opinion polls. “We represent the majority of the American people.”

The problem, of course, is that these four candidates – Barr, Baldwin, McKinney, and Nader – have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are running as third-party caniddates for President. Saying that a vote for any one of them is equal pretty much tosses into the trash can any of the principles that Paul’s campaign was supposedly built upon.

Interestingly enough, though, Paul did say that he received a last-minute plea for support from the McCain Campaign:

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ron Paul has given a “thanks but no thanks” response to a last-ditch effort by the McCain campaign to get the Lake Jackson lawmaker to endorse the Republican nominee for president.

On Tuesday, a day before Paul, a former GOP contender for president, had scheduled a news conference to announce he was urging supporters to back third-party candidates over GOP Sen. John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, he got a call from former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, a McCain ally and former McCain campaign co-chairman.

According to Paul, Gramm asked him back to McCain, arguing that the Republican was closer to his positions than Obama.

”The idea was that he would do less harm than the other candidate,” Paul said.

But Paul said he made it known that he would not endorse McCain, whom he has disagreed with on a whole host of issues, including the war in Iraq.

Furthermore, Paul said ” I don’t enjoy getting two to three million people angry at me.”

Paul said Gramm ended the conversation with, ”well if you change your mind, call me back.”

Yea, that’ll happen.

Meanwhile, there’s another interesting development coming out of the Ron Paul Press Conference. As Reason reported earlier today, Bob Barr backed out of the joint appearance at the last minute. Some reports said he didn’t want to be on the same stage with people like Cynthia McKinney, but it appears that the story is even weirder than that.

By the way, here’s the video of Paul’s announcement:

Politics Ron Paul Says No McCain, No Obama