Focusing solely on his third presidential bid, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tx., announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election for a 13th term in the House of Representatives. Observers contend Paul, who is the father of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is an excellent fundraiser who would have easily retained his seat despite redistricting, but the 75-year-old congressman felt it was time to move on and put his energy into one last bid for the White House.
“I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election,” Paul told a Texas newspaper. “It’s about that time when I should change tactics.”
The retirement will take the country’s most prominent libertarian voice out of Washington, after years of redefining conservative politics. Opposing increases in the debt ceiling, supporting a more isolationist foreign policy, abolishing the Fed — all longtime Paul mainstays that would have been laughed off only a few years ago — are now well within the Republican mainstream. And it provides yet another signal that Paul plans to take a more intense approach to the 2012 campaign — he’s already stepped up his presence on the trail in Iowa and New Hampshire — adding to a strong fundraising operation that raised $4.5 million in the second quarter.
Paul served five terms in the House before retiring ahead of the 1984 election. He ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, then returned to Congress in 1996, where he grew into the leading voice of libertarian politics in Washington and a harbinger of policy positions that have moved into the mainstream. And he’s developed a fiercely devoted if narrow following, along with much of the credit for seeding the tea party movement.