The End of the Ron Paul Era?

After representing his Texas district for over 22 years, Ron Paul will not run for Congress again in 2012, instead focusing on his presidential campaign. Texas-based publication The Facts reported on Tuesday morning:

"I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election," Paul said. "It's about that time when I should change tactics."

His announcement will give enough time for anyone with aspirations for his seat to think about running, he said. Paul didn't want to wait for filing in the 2012 primary to let people know he wasn't seeking reelection.

"I didn't want to hold off until in December," he said. "I thought it shouldn't be any later than now." ...

We have a lot more support right now," he said. "Things are doing well for us."

Paul is traveling the country in his bid for the White House and said he has spent twice the amount of time in New Hampshire and Iowa this year than he did in 2008. Throughout his time in politics, Paul has had a stance of limited government, reduced federal spending, individual liberties and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

"I have been talking about this for years," he said Tuesday. "I will always be doing that. But not in the U.S. Congress."

A former obstetrician, Paul is 75 years old. He set fundraising records during his 2008 presidential bid, which put him on the national political map. He was reelected to his seat after failing to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

Paul supporter Lew Rockwell posits some motivations for Paul's decision:

He has been thinking about this for some time, and wants to concentrate on the presidential campaign and future and enhanced educational efforts that will blow your socks off. Also, he has had it--to name just a few items--with: twice weekly groping by the TSA (since he has metal knees and is selected for the full feel-up every time); dealing with the crooks and creeps in Congress, especially in the rotten Texas delegation; and the deadly new district the Republicans have placed him in.

Given Paul's age, it seems he will retire if he doesn't win the presidency. A senior adviser wouldn't say whether Paul is open to running for Congress again, or another office in Texas, if he doesn't win.

More likely than not, then, this decision will mean the end of Paul's career as an elected official, as he is a long shot to win the White House in 2012 despite enjoying probably the most enthusiastic supporters of any candidate in the race and performing solidly in national polls. Paul placed second in a recent nationwide NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, collecting 11 percent (tied with Rep. Michele Bachmann) behind Mitt Romney's 43 percent. His best showings in 2008 came in North Dakota and Maine, where he finished second.

Paul's 2008 campaign changed things. It brought libertarians out of the woodwork, revolutionized online fundraising for conservatives by breaking single-day records and inventing the "money bomb," helped give rise to the tea party movement, and made it okay for Republicans to oppose foreign wars. It gave libertarians power within the Republican coalition, dragging the GOP's center of gravity far enough toward fiscal austerity and social agnosticism that Republican politics became the main outlet for libertarians, who have always had to choose between the GOP and the Libertarian Party.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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