- (Reuters / Brian Snyder)
Ron Paul, convinced that his message of personal liberty and limited government is catching on, has announced that he is running for the presidency.
Paul made his bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination official Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." A staunch libertarian, Paul believes that "[the] time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years."
An April Gallup poll showed that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) rated current economic conditions as "poor." When respondents were asked in another April Gallup poll to express how much confidence they had in a particular group or position to recommend the right thing for the economy, the largest majority (58 percent) said they had a great deal to a fair amount of trust in their governors over President Barack Obama or Republicans or Democrats in Congress.
With Americans disgruntled with the president and government's handling of the economy, it is no surprise that Texas Congressman Paul's rhetoric about limited government is gaining momentum.
Prior to the announcement, Paul tested the waters at the Fox News GOP debate. The debate featured Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty. Notably absent were the bigger names including Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann.
Though Cain, a former CEO Godfather's Pizza, initially was pegged as the winner of the first Republican debate in the focus group, many of Paul's responses roused the audience in applause. The following weekend, Paul's poll approval rating as the debate's winner soared among Fox News viewers.
Last Friday, the FoxNews.com debate poll showed that Cain was up by 54 percent (1,103 voters) as of 5 p.m., ET. Paul, with the approval of 543 voters or about 29 percent of the poll, was a distant second.
By Saturday, 2:55 p.m.ET, the results changed to reveal Paul as the winner of the first Republican presidential debate by 55.45 percent (2665 votes). A similar poll posted on FoxInsider.com also showed last Saturday that a majority of voters believe Paul came out on top in the debate.
Paul has also won the straw polls from the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and the online poll for the 2011 Tea Party Patriots' American Policy Summit.
Heritage Foundation Vice President of Government Studies Michael Franc acknowledges that Paul's message about limited government appeals to many conservatives, including some Christians.
"In many cases that would be viewed as a positive by Christian conservative voters," he said noting that that libertarians' belief in limited government is consistent with Christians' desire to worship without government interference.
However, Franc says purist libertarianism views on the legalization of drugs and same-sex marriage may be a stumbling block for Christians who consider themselves social conservatives.
"Some libertarians ... believe that the government should have no role in deciding what should be illegal in terms of substances: marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, you name it," explained Franc.
Paul, a 12-term House representative, affirmed his purist views during the May 5th debate, saying "If you have the inconsistency, then you are not defending liberty."
He also affirmed that if he were president, he would end federal regulation on illegal substances allowing states like California to legalize the drug if they desired to do so.
Paul, a supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act, explained his support saying that he approved of allowing states to decide whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage. However, he told the crowd that he did not think anyone should try to put their views of marriage on others, including his own as a Protestant.
Franc noted that Christian conservatives recognize that families, churches and other forms of community should come first in regulating its members. But they also recognize that some actions have widespread repercussions and should be regulated on a larger scale.
He concluded, "There's going to be some selective ... libertarian messages that will be well received, but there's going to be a lot of areas where people just don't want to hear about it."
A March Barna poll seems to affirm Franc's view. Although Paul was listed among evangelicals' top five presidential picks, he was ranked last with a 51 percent approval rating. Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee took the top spot in the poll with an 88 percent favorable rating.
Evangelicals may have also bypassed Paul because of doubt over his electability.
Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family's government and public policy arm Citizen Link, said of Paul during the February CPAC, "He has a very small but very strong following."
The FOTF official said Paul's base will not be enough to help him win the GOP primary. "I suspect that he will not prevail," Minnery predicted.
A CNN poll released last week revealed that Paul has the best chance of all the possible GOP contenders against Obama. The poll showed that he would only trail the president by seven points in a hypothetical election.
However, Paul's national support currently ranks at six percent in a Gallup poll comparing his favorability to that of A list contenders.
Paul also fared poorly during the 2008 presidential primary.
During his 2008 primary race, Paul's campaign had a strong online presence and raised a lot of money. Despite this, he continually came in a distant third in the Super Tuesday primary races. He garnered 35 delegates compared to Romney's 278 and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)'s 1,575. Paul dropped out of the race in June.
So far, Paul's online supporters are already in gear spreading his libertarian message and fundraising. Paul raised more than $1 million online in the 24-hour period leading up to the first GOP presidential debate, according to Politico.
He's also rallying supporters in New Hampshire, the state said to be a libertarian stronghold.