Popular among college boys, Paul has won the straw poll competition at the Conservative Political Action Conference (heavily attended by students) for two years in a row. He's not the most conservative candidate, but he's got an "every man out for himself" attitude that endears him to capitalism purists and has a penchant for independent speeches that's made him an Internet sensation.
Dr. Paul, 74, has been in the presidential game a few times before: he was the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988 and competed (not very well) as a Republican in 2008. A small-town obstetrician and gynecologist, Paul has spent the last 35 years in politics, mostly in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he is affectionately and angrily called "Dr. No." For a long time, he was on the fringe of the Republican establishment and often voted off the party line. But the rise of the Tea Party has resulted in his views--which have been consistent--almost breaking into the Republican mainstream: drastic spending cuts, less international military action, (he opposed the Iraq war and opposes the U.S. involvement in Libya), even closing the IRS and the Federal Reserve System. No NAFTA, no Patriot Act, no big government. But his chances are slim, largely because some of his views remain hard for many in the Christian right to swallow--an increasingly important bloc of Republican voters. Even though he's an anti-abortion Baptist, Paul believes that states have the right to legalize marijuana (like Gary Johnson) and doesn't agree with the Defense of Marriage Act.
Being a maverick helped Paul win support of the young and Internet savvy in 2008--even if he's not young or Internet savvy himself (that's what staffers are for). When Paul alluded to the 9/11 attacks being connected to the bombing of Iraq for 10 years he was attacked by conservatives, but won accolades among anti-war Republicans.
"I'm for the individual," Paul said. "I'm not for the government."