The front-runners in the GOP presidential race were nowhere to be found as California Republicans met in Los Angeles over the weekend, giving underdog candidates a chance to press their argument that the nation will recover from its economic malaise only by shrinking government to the bounds of the Constitution.

The crowd at the state party convention — as usual dominated by the more conservative elements in the GOP — warmly received U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas.

Paul spoke to about 200 people at a breakfast fundraiser Saturday, but hundreds more supporters trailed him at the J.W. Marriott hotel, chanting his name and waving signs that read “Ron Paul revolution.”

“Endless wars overseas and endless welfare at home — we can’t afford that anymore. We have to change those policies,” Paul said. “I’m running on peace and prosperity and personal liberty, the U.S. Constitution and American tradition.”

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