Rep. Ron Paul was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.
Rep. Ron Paul was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. Jim Cole/AP
Say this for Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who will once again contest for his party's presidential nomination — he won't leave voters guessing about where he stands on the issues.
Paul, the 75-year old libertarian conservative whose 2008 run made him an Internet sensation and drew a legion of energetic followers, many of them young, to his effort, may have some views considered out of the mainstream of Republican and American politics.
But he's generally true to them which is a large part of his appeal to voters who've grown weary of politicians they view as cynically willing to say anything to win an office or keep it.
Paul, for instance, was virtually alone, in the Republican Party at least, in his opposition to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Meanwhile, Paul is famous for his opposition to the Federal Reserve, tapping into a populist Jacksonian strain in American life long suspicious of Wall Street and bankers.
He's just as equally famous for his devotion to the gold standard and "hard money," not the "fiat" stuff created by the central bank through quantitative easing and such.
And long before the Tea Party movement came along with its activists wearing their tri-corner hats and waving yellow "Don't Tread On Me" flags, Paul was talking about adhering to constitutional principles and inveighing against the large federal government that, he said, encroached on state power.
To a certain extent, Paul is held to be an important inspiration for the Tea Party movement which not only has embraced him but his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose election to the Senate was propelled by the new grassroots movement's energy. He was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.
By officially entering the Republican presidential sweepstakes Tuesday with an announcement in Des Moines, IA that he is forming an exploratory committee, Paul could allow many Tea Party activists to coalesce around his efforts.
No doubt, his presence should add some previously lacking excitement to what has been roundly viewed as a fairly uninspiring field.
But while Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty won't be able to match the improbable star power of the slim, white-haired medical doctor turned politician, they can always take solace in how unlikely a Paul nomination is thought to be.
Because so many of his views aren't mainstream, he would truly rewrite many of the rules of American politics if he were to somehow become the Republican nominee.
That said, here are a couple of entertaining Paul profiles to read. Esquire has an excerpt of a profile by John H. Richardson of the congressman online (you have to get your hands on the actual dead-tree version of the May issue to read the whole thing.)
Back in 2007, the New York Times Magazine had a lengthy piece on Paul by Christopher Caldwell.
One of its most interesting passages was about how Paul has come to be seen as something of a magic mirror in which many voters of different political stripes see something of themselves reflected.
Paul's ideological easygoingness is like a black hole that attracts the whole universe of individuals and groups who don't recognize themselves in the politics they see on TV. To hang around with his impressively large crowd of supporters before and after the CNN debate in Manchester, N.H., in June, was to be showered with privately printed newsletters full of exclamation points and capital letters, scribbled-down U.R.L.'s for Web sites about the Free State Project, which aims to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian enclave, and copies of the cult DVD "America: Freedom to Fascism."