- - Sunday, May 15, 2011

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who announced a third bid for the presidency last week, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he is “well equipped” to serve as commander in chief.

The 75-year-old Republican said: “I have a fair amount of experience. I’ve been in the military. I was in the military five years, that gives me a little bit of experience. I would say I’m pretty well-equipped. But to brag that I can run things, I don’t do that because that’s not what a president is supposed to do.”

The tea party favorite had made his run official in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.

“Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years. So, I think the time is right,” said Mr. Paul, who first ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988.

Three years ago, the former flight surgeon and outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve became an Internet sensation and a prodigious fundraiser when he made a spirited but doomed bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

First elected to Congress in 1976, he is known for holding unconventional views while keeping a smile on his face, espousing a sort of modern Republican populism.

The obstetrician has delivered more than 4,000 babies and is personally against abortion, but he doesn’t think the federal government should regulate it. That’s a function of state government, he has said.

He also has said he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, favors returning the United States to the gold standard in monetary policy and wants the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Democrats have tried repeatedly to beat him in a congressional district that stretches from the outskirts of Corpus Christi to Galveston. But the independent swath of coastal Texas seems a good fit for the maverick doctor. He has 18 grandchildren, according to his website, and he and his wife of 54 years, Carol, are known widely in the district for the cookbooks they give away to supporters.

“The secret to his success is his authenticity,” said Democratic consultant Jeff Crosby, who grew up in Mr. Paul’s district. “He’s an authentic nut.”

Mr. Paul, a native of Pittsburgh, is both a spiritual father and actual father in the tea party movement. His son, tea party darling Rand Paul, won a Senate seat in Kentucky last year and has become an ardent proponent of spending cuts and smaller government.

As far back as 2007, long before people were evoking the fabled Boston Tea Party to symbolize their disgust with an overtaxing central government, Ron Paul was hosting a “Tea Party Fundraiser” aboard a shrimp boat near Galveston.

Mr. Paul has expressed the view that the states, not the federal government, should regulate vices like pornography and drugs.

What sets him apart most from his GOP brethren are his views that defense spending must shrink and that the U.S. should get out of its two wars. Mr. Paul has said the conflicts are financially unsustainable and another drag on a battered U.S. dollar that he believes is on the verge of collapse.

Former Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina counts herself among the die-hard Ron Paul followers who won’t let age, unconventional views or the professed tea party proclivities of other candidates shake her away from the soft-spoken presidential contender.

“All the Republicans say we need to reduce spending,” she said. “They talk about it, but they don’t actually deliver on those promises. He’s different.”