He is Mr. Authentic in the Republican leadership race.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul is a super-long shot to win the GOP nomination to take on Barack Obama, but every time he takes the stage during TV debates he expresses a candour and authenticity that endears him to audiences.
During the CNN debate in Jacksonville, Florida on Thursday night, Mr. Paul was at it again, producing some of the most memorable lines and moments.
And it was no easy task on a night when candidate Newt Gingrich was pushing his bold vision to create a moon colony on America’s future 51st state.
Mr. Paul dismissed the idea, to great applause: “We should send some politicians to the moon.”
When asked about his age – he would be the oldest president in U.S. history were he to win the November election – and whether he was willing to release his medical records, Mr. Paul said he “obviously” would.
“Because it’s about one page, if even that long,” Mr. Paul said.
And then turning to the other, much younger candidates on the stage, Mr. Paul laid out the challenge: “I am willing to challenge any of these gentleman up here to a 25 mile bike ride any time of the day in the heat of Texas.”
Mr. Paul’s libertarian ideas are unconventional: a dramatic downsizing and virtual elimination of the role of Washington D.C., including getting rid of the Federal Reserve, all income tax, and closing U.S. bases overseas and bringing all military personnel back to the country.
On the question of engaging America’s enemies, Mr. Paul has said he would be willing to talk to any world leader.
“Imagine you’re in the oval office, you speak to [Cuban leader]Raul Castro, what would you say to him?” asked CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer.
“Well,” he said and paused. “I’d ask him what he called about,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Paul has consistently won the support of independent voters and under-30s. They were key to his strong second place finish in the New Hampshire primary on January 10th behind winner Mitt Romney.
A Wall Street Journal and NBC News poll released Thursday evening shows Mr. Paul with 12 per cent support nationally among registered Republicans.
In that same poll, Newt Gingrich leads Mr. Romney 37 per cent to 28 per cent, with Mr. Santorum in third with 18 per cent.
Mr. Paul is not expected to do well in the Florida primary on January 31st, but he maintains that he will continue campaigning so long as he continues to draw crowds and his ideas gain some traction.
In his third bid for the White House, Mr. Paul will likely take part in the next TV debate scheduled on February 22nd in Arizona.