Commentary: Ron Paul — the other GOP candidate from Texas

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramDecember 20, 2011 

To some folks he's like the doddering old uncle who was locked in the basement too long -- the Walter Mitty of the presidential campaign.

A relatively small but loyal following considers Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, the truest conservative candidate to ever come along and the only person of the current crop of presidential aspirants who would actually hold fast to the promise of cutting big government.

I've observed Paul for years, including his now three presidential bids, and have long admired him for his candor and his consistency. You'll never have to worry about him "flip-flopping" or biting his tongue.

Of the two candidates from Texas seeking the Republican nomination, there is little doubt that Paul is the better at articulating his issues, shows the most sincerity for his long-standing platform and is the least bothered by the not-so-subtle ridicule that he receives from some fellow candidates and political pundits.

A few days ago he gave me another reason to sing his praises when he became the first candidate to refuse an invitation to appear at a debate that is to be moderated by the blowhard Donald Trump. He made it clear that he was not going to play the part of an "apprentice" to a self-serving media hound who would likely turn the serious business of a presidential candidates' debate into a reality TV show.

The only two candidates who have agreed to appear with Trump are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Surely I'm not the only one who is sick of Trump and his self-promotion.

But enough about The Donald. Many of Paul's backers rightly believe that the media continue to minimize his campaign even though he's running second to Gingrich in the Iowa polls and is ahead of his fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry, in most other polling. (By the way, it took Perry a full week before he figured out how to decline Trump's invitation.)

Again, it's Paul's consistency that is playing better with the GOP primary electorate this time, along with the fact that the rest of the field has been forced to move closer to his "far out" Libertarian views than they would have been four years ago. Paul was "Tea Party" before Tea Party was cool.

At 76, the physician with 12 congressional terms under his belt is running a much sharper campaign than in his last two bids for the presidency, as the Libertarian candidate in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008.

He has people on the ground in Iowa, and just last week the campaign announced new headquarters in five states (Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota and Washington), inviting supporters to drop by and enjoy activities that include watching the next presidential debate, set for Thursday.

He's also raised a lot of money, around $13 million, which puts him third after Mitt Romney and Perry.

Paul, who remains steady and generally unflappable, is not one who is likely to drop out anytime soon, regardless of the polling or the outcome in early caucuses and primaries.

Remember during the debate when Perry couldn't think of the third of three government agencies he would cut? Paul was trying to help him out by holding up all the fingers of one hand and yelling, "five," the number of departments he would eliminate as president. And, believe me, Paul doesn't stumble when he ticks off the departments: Energy, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.

He's a politician who plainly says America should not have been involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, ought to return to the gold standard and must get out of the business of foreign aid. He also has consistently called for a complete audit of the Federal Reserve by the Government Accountability Office.

Paul is a representative who's never signed up for a congressional pension, and he routinely returns to the Treasury unspent funds from the operation of his congressional office.

I don't think he can win the Republican nomination, but at this point he has a much better chance than the other guy from Texas, who is still trying to find his way -- still trying to define who he is and what he believes.

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