Ron Paul forms Exploratory Committee

Apr 27, 2011, 08:22 by Danielle Bodnar

Ron Paul announced Tuesday that he's forming a campaign exploratory committee, moving closer to another bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

The Texas congressman told about 60 supporters at an airport hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, that he would decide whether to run for president by June.

Iowa's caucuses lead off the presidential nominating process. Next year's are scheduled for Feb. 6. Paul finished fifth in the 2008 caucuses.

Paul is popular among Tea Party supporters, but if he seeks the GOP nomination he will probably have to compete for those voters with other candidates.

Paul, who has visited Iowa seven times since the 2008 election, called his candidacy "a reflection of a grass-roots movement."

He called for strict fiscal policy and warned that the nation's monetary policy risked a financial crisis worse than in 2008.

By taking the first step toward a full-fledged presidential campaign, Paul joins former governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Gary Johnson of New Mexico, as well as Atlanta businessman Herman Cain and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who have also formed exploratory committees.

The new status will allow Paul to participate in the season's first debate for prospective Republican candidates, scheduled for May 5. Recently revised guidelines require each participant to file as an exploratory candidate or a formal candidate by Friday.

Paul, a 12-term U.S. representative and a doctor by trade, has vied for the presidency twice before. In 1988, he won the Libertarian Party nomination. Twenty years later, in 2008, he ran as a Republican, earning 10 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and garnering a total of 24 delegates overall to finish the race in fifth place.

The lawmaker told the Des Moines Register Tuesday afternoon that he expects his message of limited government to connect with more voters this time around.

"I believe there are literally millions of more people now concerned about the things I talked about four years ago," he said, noting that government spending, entitlement programs and foreign policy are shaping up to be major talking points in 2012. "They're concerned about the economy and they're worried that the conditions are deteriorating."

The congressman's record of fiscal conservatism will garner him votes, but Paul doesn't favor the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and historically hasn't been very outspoken on social issues, which could hurt him in the Hawkeye State, Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University, told the Register.

"Ron Paul doesn't necessarily have those socially conservative positions that seem to be so important in Iowa," he said. "But I never like to underestimate Ron Paul."