GOP Presidential Primary

Ron Paul takes step toward 2012 bid; final decision next month

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on Tuesday took an official
step
toward running for president, indicating he’s prepared to test how much
GOP
voters support his libertarian views.

At a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, the
congressman
announced the formation of his exploratory committee, becoming the fifth
Republican candidate to do so. The announcement allows him to begin
assembling
his campaign infrastructure while raising and spending money in
anticipation of
a formal candidacy announcement.

{mosads}”One reason why most people expect it to be different is because the country is quite different. … Millions of people are more concerned about the things I talked about four years ago,” he said, when asked about how his 2012 campaign would differ from his last one. “The expectation is that it will be a much more significant campaign if it comes to a campaign announcement.”

“I will be very surprised if we don’t make that decision one way or the other by the middle of May,” he said of his final decision on whether to run.

He also predicted one of President Obama’s strongest support groups from the 2008 election won’t be a factor next year.

“I think that Obama will not be able to hang on to that enthusiasm of the young people because of what’s been going on over the last [several] years,” he said.

Many pundits are predicting Paul could loom
larger in
the Republican field than he did in 2008, when he took 5.6 percent of
the
primary voting share, bowing out of the race in June of that year.
They cite
the rise of the Tea Party and the lack of a true front-runner who would
crowd
out a lesser-known candidate like Paul.

Paul is a staunch opponent of raising the nation’s
debt
ceiling, which is expected to consume the political debate this summer,
and he
has differentiated himself from the GOP field by opposing the wars in
Iraq and
Afghanistan.

He has also trumpeted the fact that his push to
audit the
Federal Reserve has gained steam in Tea Party circles, which will hold
major
sway in the 2012 GOP primary.

“One that I’m most pleased with is that most
Americans
now think that the Federal Reserve doesn’t do a very good job, and they
ought to
look into it,” he said Monday
night on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”
“Have them quit printing money and then maybe the price of oil wouldn’t
go
up.”

Paul is likely to compete for the libertarian vote
with
former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R), who announced last week he is
running.

Paul, however, is the better-known candidate in the
field
and could overshadow Johnson with both his name recognition and acumen
for
online fundraising.

He raised around $28 million in his last
presidential bid,
mostly from individuals, and developed a rabid and loyal following. He
didn’t
win a single primary state, but came in first in several straw polls — a
pattern he could follow in 2012. At the Conservative Political Action
Conference in February, Paul won the straw poll and was warmly received
by
conservative activists.

His decision to announce his 2012 exploratory
committee in
Iowa indicates he is looking to make a play in the important early
primary
state while pressuring other GOP candidates with his unique brand of
libertarian conservatism. He came in fifth in the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

“Iowa has a special place in American politics, and
Dr. Paul
is very pleased to announce the launch of his exploratory committee in
the
capital of the Hawkeye State,” said Paul’s political director, Jesse
Benton.

Paul also named three Hawkeye State political
veterans to
head his Iowa leadership team.

Dr. Drew Ivers, a veteran of four presidential
campaigns —
including Paul’s 2008 bid — and a leading evangelical figure in the
state, will
chair Paul’s Iowa committee. He will be assisted by David Fischer and
A.J.
Spiker.

All three are members of the Iowa GOP’s central
committee
and have played a role in Paul’s Campaign for Liberty nonprofit group in
Iowa.

At the end of the day, however, Paul is not
expected to win
the nomination.

“He might get a percentage point or two more
because of
the rise of the Tea Party, but, overall, he will most likely use his
views in
this campaign as a way to get his message out,” Republican strategist
Ron
Bonjean told The Hill.

Bonjean said that potentially successful candidates
will not
want to adopt Paul’s views because they are too outside the mainstream.

“I don’t think he’ll have a tremendous impact on
the
primary at all. I think most primary voters want to select a candidate
that
will become president of the United States,” he said.

Paul seemed to recognize there is a ceiling to his
campaign
during his interview with “Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert.

Colbert jokingly asked him during the interview
Monday
night: “Are you or are you not ready to declare that you will eventually
drop out of the 2012 race?”

“I’m on my way,” Paul answered. “I’m on my way
to making a really important decision very soon, within a year or two.”

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