LAKE JACKSON, Texas (AP) — The only trail where you might catch Ron Paul this weekend is the biking one here.

While the other Republican presidential candidates were campaigning in South Carolina, the Texas congressman whose recent momentum is arguably second only to front-runner Mitt Romney’s is home taking a break, just as his often belittled candidacy has never been taken more seriously.

Paul’s supporters say they don’t begrudge the 76-year-old for stepping out of the spotlight after he really seized it.

“It’s totally OK,” said Cindy Lake, 48, a volunteer passing out voter registration forms ahead of Nevada’s primary next month. “We want him to take a break. He needs to take a break as much as any human being needs to take a break.”

But Paul’s retreat to Lake Jackson, where the former obstetrician is still likely to be spotted cycling down Oyster Creek Drive, may feed skepticism about whether he is really playing to win the nomination or just getting exposure for libertarian ideas. Some of his comments and his unorthodox campaign style have raised that question.

Paul, who was regarded as a gadfly when ran for president as Republican in 2008 and as a Libertarian in 1988, has finished in the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire this month.

After winning 22.9 percent of the New Hampshire vote, Paul made a brief stop in South Carolina on Wednesday before flying home. Early polls suggest he’s in the top half of the field in the Jan. 21 primary.

Aides did not respond to questions about Paul’s plans at home before his scheduled return to South Carolina, perhaps as early as Sunday.

A few cars came and went from Paul’s new 7,300-square-foot mansion in the coastal city of 27,000. The white-stone home is largely concealed by a sprawling live oak tree. A “Paul Acres” sign on a white lattice fence reminds visitors the land is private and not to trespass.

“He’s been doing this for 35 years and has done pretty well,” said Dr. Richard Hardoin, a Lake Jackson pediatrician and friend of Paul. “If he needs to be here, I presume it’s for some important reason.”

Paul also raised eyebrows on the eve of the Iowa caucuses by going home for the weekend.

He bucks convention in other ways. He doesn’t plunge into crowds to ask for votes. He keeps a relatively light schedule when does campaign, limiting himself to three or four stops per day. His wife, Carol, isn’t seen as much as the spouses of the other candidates, and Paul’s speeches talk mostly about a movement or message instead of himself.

Paul has been a spokesman for libertarian philosophies for more than 40 years, promoting the cause even when few seemed to be listening. He has written nine books and used his congressional seat and his political races to speak out for eliminating the Federal Reserve, bringing back the gold standard, ending foreign aid, ceasing overseas military engagements and legalizing marijuana. While other conservative politicians have changed positions on issues, he hasn’t.

Many fellow libertarians see him as a hero.

“Ron Paul, I credit him. He really started introducing this into public consciousness,” said Larry Hilton, an attorney and insurance salesman who helped draft legislation to legalize gold and silver coins issued by the government as currency. “Before then, people just took it on faith — ‘the sun rises, the sun sets, the dollar devalues.’ Ron Paul changed that.”

Paul has been repeatedly asked about how serious he is about his campaign since saying on the eve of the Iowa caucuses that he doesn’t envision himself in the White House. He told ABC News, “I don’t deceive myself. I know what the odds are.”

He’s backed away from those comments since, and told a crowd this past week, “We’re marching on. The numbers are growing. They grew exponentially in New Hampshire, and they’re going to grow continuously here in South Carolina as well.”

During the debates last weekend in New Hampshire, Paul stuck out by saying he’d probably be reading an economic textbook on a Saturday night if he wasn’t campaigning.

Near his house, some wondered whether he was doing just that.

“He’s a family man, he likes riding his bike and I think he feels comfortable doing it here than running around other states doing it,” said Jordan Rogers, 21, a student whose backyard abuts to the biking trail where the Paul often exercises undisturbed. “He’s got to see his family and strategize and probably catching up on a lot of reading.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (7)
  1. Kate says:

    You do remember that Dr. Paul is still a full time Congressman, right? I have a feeling that going to Texas isn’t that restful. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the good Doctor is the only candidate that does have a job besides running for President.

    Doesn’t seem that strange to me.

    Just thinking about doing both these things at the same time exhausts me, and I’m not over 50 yet………so, go Dr. Paul!!

  2. gao xia en says:


  3. gao xia en says:


  4. gao xia en says:


  5. Tim M says:

    The primaries this cycle are a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve read some articles that suggest the delegate majority might not be reached until June, due to the GOP change in how delegates are being awarded.

    Ask yourself who qualified for the VA primary vote, who has full slates in IL? There you will find the candidates that are in it to win it.

    ronpaul2012 DOT com

  6. Louis Nardozi says:

    Paul supporters will vote for Paul and no one else. The thing the Party has to remember is, how many OTHER national, state and local candidates do they want to doom by disenfranchising Paul?

  7. Louis Nardozi says:

    What kills me is no major news organization can refrain from calling Paul ‘isolationist’ while maintaining a blissful ignorance to the national security implications of a 16 trillion dollar debt and the absence of key sectors of manufacturing. What happens when China dumps a trillion dollars worth of T-Bills on the market at once? Economic collapse. What happens if a solar flare or EMP goes off in the heartland and all our transformers are burnt out and irreplaceable? Get ready for the collapse of society – and that’s just two small things off the top of my head. All the money we spend on ‘terrorism’ and you’re FAR more likely to die of diarrhea. Where’s the War on Diarrhea?

    And anyway, Paul is apparently the only one of our politician who remembers what it MEANS to be an American. Patriot Act? NDAA? Since when are we such craven sniveling cowards we’ll trade our freedom to save ourselves from something vanishingly improbable compared to death by… diarrhea?

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