Rep. Ron Paul waits to speak at a news conference in April in Des Moines, Iowa.
Rep. Ron Paul waits to speak at a news conference in April in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP
Rep. Ron Paul, one of the best-known U.S. House members, also one of the nation's most famous libertarians, let it be known Tuesday he won't run for re-election to focus on what is largely considered by many to be a quixotic run for the White House.
Paul, a 75-year old Republican who has served as representative from Texas' 14th Congressional District since 1996, revealed his intentions to a Texas local newspaper, The Facts, of Brazoria County. An excerpt:
"I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election," Paul said. "It's about that time when I should change tactics."
His announcement will give enough time for anyone with aspirations for his seat to think about running, he said. Paul didn't want to wait for filing in the 2012 primary to let people know he wasn't seeking reelection.
"I didn't want to hold off until in December," he said. "I thought it shouldn't be any later than now."
It's unlikely that by leaving Congress Paul will lose any of his appeal to his devoted followers.
His influence on the national scene has been less about his effectiveness as a legislator and more about his nearly unswerving advocacy of individual rights over government power as well as his opposition to the Federal Reserve and insistence that the U.S. return its currency to the gold standard.
He was also almost unique among Republicans during the George W. Bush administration as an unstinting critic of U.S. foreign policy, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of those are ideas Paul will be able to continue to push as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and beyond, without the hindrance of having to tend to a congressman's responsibilities to vote and provide constituent services.
Paul can also depart Congress reassured in the knowledge that his son, Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and ideological as well as actual kin, is in place.
An obstetrician by training (his son is an ophthalmologist) Paul actually first won a House seat in a special election in 1976. But he lost it a few months later in the general election only to regain it in the next election.
He decided to run for U.S. Senate in 1978 but lost to conservative Phil Gramm. Paul's House seat was won by Tom DeLay who went on to become House majority leader but later was convicted on state campaign finance charges and sentenced to prison.
Paul won with 76 percent of the vote in 2010 so the district certainly has to be considered safe for Republicans.