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John McCain picked up another endorsement today, appropriately for Presidents Day. This one was from former president George H.W. Bush.

Former President GEORGE H. W. BUSH: He has the right values and experience to guide our nation forward at this historic moment. And so I'm very proud to endorse John McCain for the presidency of the United States of America.

NORRIS: McCain thanked the 41st president for the endorsement, saying, I think that our effort to continue to unite the party will be enhanced dramatically by President Bush's words.

John McCain is clearly the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, having won the most primaries, the most votes, and the most delegates, but on the Internet, it's a different story. On the Web, Texas Congressman Ron Paul has a devoted following. He has raised more money than many of the higher profile candidates who have since dropped out of the race. But he hasn't been a factor in the battle for the nomination. And while his opposition to the war in Iraq has gotten him national attention, it may be hurting his chances of keeping his congressional seat back home.

From Texas Public Radio, David Martin Davies reports.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES: For the last 55 years, community members have gathered for a charity fish fry at the Deutschburg Civic Center about 150 miles south of Houston along the coastline, right in the middle of the 14th Congressional District of Texas.

(Soundbite of cake auction)

DAVIES: The highlight of the event is the cake auction, and the bidding can climb over $100 or more for these ordinary cakes.

(Soundbite of cake auction)

Unidentified Man #1: I tell you all that this is the cheapest cake ever has been for a political office who has ever run for (unintelligible). You're the only gonna cost you five bucks more.

DAVIES: The big spenders are local politicians looking to win favor with area voters.

(Soundbite of auction)

Unidentified Man #1: Sold right here for $95 got to go to Gary Mathis(ph) for sheriff.

DAVIES: The area's congressman, Ron Paul isn't here, but Chris Peden, his opponent in the March 4th primary is. And to boot, he spent $100 on some homemade cinnamon buns. Peden is an accountant and a city councilman from Friendswood. He says he's the true conservative in the race.

Mr. CHRIS PEDEN (City Councilman, Friendswood; Ron Paul Opponent): How are you fellows doing today?

Unidentified Man #2: Fine. Thank you.

Mr. PEDEN: I'm Chris Peden. I'm running for Congress in your district.

Unidentified Man #2: Okay.

Mr. BILLY HOLT (Retired Farmer): Who are you running against?

Mr. PEDEN: I'm running against Ron Paul.

Mr. HOLT: Wow. Well, hope to hell you beat him.

Mr. PEDEN: Thank you, sir.

DAVIES: Billy Holt is the feisty retired farmer who wants Paul out of office. But like many people in this rural part of Texas, he knows it's a tough task.

Mr. HOLT: It's hard to beat Ron, I'll tell you. He's been there a long time.

DAVIES: Holt is also realistic about Paul's presidential ambitions.

Mr. HOLT: I don't think there's any chance that he could even get nominated for president. But - unless he's got something up his sleeve we don't know about.

DAVIES: Ron Paul had not much trouble winning and winning big in this conservative district every two years. But now, some voters, like Ronnie Kubecca(ph), think Paul may have gone too far with his opposition to the war in Iraq and the Bush foreign policy.

Mr. RONNIE KUBECCA (Texas Resident): A lot of people aren't happy with Dr. Paul because of his military stance against our military. It's a very close-knit community. We've had local kids that have gone off to serve in Iraq.

DAVIES: That's what Chris Peden is banking on.

Mr. PEDEN: Well, people believe that he doesn't represent their values and they've learned that during this presidential debate.

DAVIES: It's been a while since Paul spent time campaigning in the 14th congressional district, until now.

(Soundbite of people chanting)

DAVIES: Recently, Paul announced he is reenergizing his reelection effort. Paul was cheered at a rally in his hometown of Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Representative RON PAUL (Republican, Texas; Presidential Candidate): Thank you. Thank you very much. It's great to be home.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

DAVIES: It was described as a rally for Paul's local supporters, but fans from well outside the districts filled the hall. Many of those who attended can't vote for Paul in the primary, but many others like Matthew Pacar(ph) can.

Mr. MATTHEW PACAR (Ron Paul Supporter): He's been our congressman for a long time. We've really been pleased with how he sticks to what's constitutional. You know, he's against bigger government; he's always been that way. We're all for Ron Paul around here, so.

DAVIES: For his part, Congressman Paul says it's important for him to return to Congress. But he does acknowledge that his new national exposure has made him more of a local celebrity.

Rep. PAUL: I just notice that I get stopped more often that ever among my constituents in my district since I've had a national presence. They seem to be very pleased that I've gotten the attention and gotten these interviews on national programs.

DAVIES: But challenger Peden is betting there's a downside to Paul's new found fame.

Mr. PEDEN: The voters have been exposed to points of view that Ron Paul has, that they don't necessarily agree with.

DAVIES: And Peden hopes it will result in voters looking his way in the March 4th primary.

For NPR News, I'm David Martin Davies.

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