Rep. Ron Paul (TX) Paul is an iconoclastic libertarian who left the Republican Party briefly in 1988 to become the Libertarian nominee for president. A strong anti-tax and anti-federal government crusader, he is the only Republican in the field who voted against the decision to go to war in Iraq.
NPR logo Rep. Ron Paul (TX)

Rep. Ron Paul (TX)

Rep. Ron Paul at the GOP presidential candidates' debate in Simi Valley, Calif., May 3, 2007. After each GOP debate, Paul has led nearly every online poll asking viewers whom they thought was the winner. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
At a Glance: Ron Paul

First Campaign

Read about Ron Paul's first campaign.

If you were asked to name which Republican candidates were seeking their party's presidential nomination, you might not think of Ron Paul. In nearly every survey of GOP voters, Paul's name barely registers. But on the Web, Paul is the most talked about, most searched for, most linked to of any of the presidential candidates, Republican or Democratic.

After each GOP debate, Paul has led nearly every online poll asking viewers who they thought was the winner. He has more friends on MySpace than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. His YouTube channel has 10 times as many subscribers as Rudolph Giuliani's. More than any of the other candidates, Paul uses the Web to promote grassroots organizing and networking.

But as Howard Dean learned in 2004, Paul's challenge is to move beyond just being an Internet phenomenon.

Paul is an iconoclastic libertarian. He first came to Congress from Texas in a special 1976 election to fill a Democratic vacancy. He was defeated for re-election in November, but won back the seat two years later. His 1984 bid for the Senate ended when he was defeated in the GOP primary by Phil Gramm.

In 1988, Paul left the Republican Party to become the Libertarian nominee for president. He returned to the GOP fold — and to Congress — in 1996, and has served there ever since.

Paul is the only GOP presidential candidate who voted against the decision to authorize President Bush to wage war against Iraq in 2002 — one of only six House Republicans to do so. He also voted against the USA Patriot Act.

He is also a strong critic of U.S. involvement in the affairs of other countries. Paul drew attention — and a rebuke from Giuliani — when he said in a debate earlier this year that U.S. intervention in the Middle East had been a major contributing factor to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Like most libertarians, Paul believes in abolishing the federal income tax. He opposes most federal regulations and has called for dramatically reducing the size of the federal government. Some of Paul's Capitol Hill colleagues have nicknamed him "Dr. No," because he never votes for legislation unless it is expressly authorized by the Constitution. As a physician, Paul refused to accept Medicare or Medicaid payments. He has never signed up for a congressional pension.

Ron Paul is 71. After receiving his medical degree from Duke University in 1961, he served as a flight surgeon in the Air Force and National Guard. Paul was a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist in Brazoria County, Texas, before being elected to Congress. He and his wife, Carol, have five children.