Ron Paul could play spoiler in 2012 race

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a two-time presidential contender, could wreak havoc for Republicans if he decides to make a third-party or independent bid for president in 2012.

New numbers from Public Policy Polling show Paul winning 13 percent of the vote in a hypothetical three-way general election contest with President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). 

In that match-up, Obama led with 42 percent of the vote to Romney's 36 percent. Paul polls third with just 13 percent of the vote, but appears to peel away some significant support from Romney. 

In a head to head match, Obama barely leads Romney — 45 percent to 42 percent.

Earlier this year, Paul won a somewhat surprising victory in the Conservative Political Action Conference's presidential straw poll.

Paul has not said whether he intends to run again in 2012, but should he decide to jump in there's little doubt he would still be able to garner some sizable fundraising and energy from grassroots and online supporters.   

Meanwhile, PPP's numbers show that despite approval ratings hovering in the mid-40s, Obama still holds slight leads over all the top Republican presidential contenders in 2012.

Obama leads former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 47 percent to 44 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 49-42 and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin 49-43.