Texas Representative Ron Paul announced Friday that he will run for the GOP nomination for president in 2012, the third attempt for the man known on Capitol Hill as "Dr. No" for his enthusiasm for bashing runaway spending and government overreach.
"Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years. So, I think the time is right," said the 75-year-old Paul, who first ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988.
Paul made his announcement in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America from New Hampshire, where he planned his first event for his presidential campaign on Friday.
Three years ago, the former flight surgeon and outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve became an Internet sensation — and a prodigious fundraiser — when he made a spirited but doomed bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
First elected to Congress in 1976, he is known for holding unconventional views while keeping a smile on his face, espousing a sort of modern Republican populism. The obstetrician has delivered more than 4,000 babies and is personally against abortion, but he doesn't think the federal government should regulate it. That's a function of state government, he says.
He has also said he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, favors returning the United States to the gold standard in monetary policy and wants the U.S out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats have tried repeatedly to beat him in a congressional district that stretches from the outskirts of Corpus Christi to Galveston. But the independent swath of coastal Texas seems a good fit for the maverick doctor. He has 18 grandchildren, according to his website, and he and his wife of 54 years, Carol, are known widely in Paul's district for the cookbooks they give away to supporters.
"The secret to his success is his authenticity," said Democratic consultant Jeff Crosby, who grew up in Paul's district. "He's an authentic nut."
Crosby, who worked unsuccessfully to defeat Paul in 2006, described the difficulty he had trying to persuade voters to reject what he thought were the candidate's radical views.
"Just the mere fact that he does what he says he's going to do, regardless of how nutty or ineffective it may be, they like it," Crosby said. "A lot of folks along the coast have never expected much from government, and they're getting it."
Paul, a native of Pittsburgh, is both a spiritual father and actual father in the tea party movement. His son, tea party darling Rand Paul, won a Senate seat in Kentucky last year and has become an ardent proponent of spending cuts and smaller government.
As far back as 2007, long before people were evoking the fabled Boston Tea Party to symbolize their disgust with an overtaxing central government, Ron Paul was hosting a "Tea Party Fundraiser" aboard a shrimp boat near Galveston.
Organizer and Paul campaign volunteer Elizabeth Day remembers that supporters wore period dress and rolled fake barrels of tea into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
"When people come to believe in Ron Paul, there is a passion that burns within us," said Day, a 57-year-old oil company revenue analyst. "To me, Ron Paul is the tea party."