Ron Paul announced on Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election to Congress while he runs (again) for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Hey wait: Ron Paul is still in Congress? Okay, I knew that. But a lot of Americans may think of him as both something more and something less than a congressman — a free-floating permanent talking head-slash-presidential candidate. So what does this mean? Probably not much. At 75-years-old, Paul probably doesn’t have a whole lot of political mileage left in him anyway. His Galveston, Texas area district is likely to replace him with another conservative Republican. As for his presidential prospects, the Texas Congressman says he’s decided it makes sense to focus on just one race to improve his (extremely long) presidential odds. But it hardly seems that the chief obstacle to Paul’s presidential aspirations has been the distraction of a Congressional re-elect.
In fact, as Paul continues to rate low in GOP presidential polling (though often better than some more “legitimate” candidates, like Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich) it’s worth pausing to marvel at how little he has broadened his appeal since 2008. Paul is, after all, credited as the godfather of the Tea Party movement. Some of his once-fringy economic ideas have gained traction within the GOP, and the ongoing global economic crisis has provided endless new more grist for his apocalyptic financial theories. Republicans even seen to be growing less internationalist and more in line with his neo-isolationist views. But Paul remains a fairly negligible presence in the Republican race, and frankly it’s hard to see how giving up his House seat is going to change that.