March 4, 2008 -- Ron Paul will live to fight another day.
The fiery Republican with a libertarian bent survived a strong challenge to his day job in Congress on Tuesday, besting a well-funded challenger.
Fall of Paul Nearly Meant Fall for Paul
Paul, the Texas congressman who distinguished himself as the only Republican presidential candidate opposing the Iraq war, gained a devoted following, harnessing the power of the Internet to raise more cash than more mainstream rivals.
But that same anti-war, libertarian bent that gave Paul national recognition nearly came back to bite him at home.
Paul, who ran for the White House as a libertarian in 1988 but gained more of a following this year as a Republican, did not suspend his presidential campaign, but was forced to scale back his national operation to focus on the race for his Congressional seat in Texas.
"I do think the presidential race has exposed some of his values and principles that are not in line with his district, and that exposure has done him harm at home," Republican primary challenger Chris Peden said of Paul.
But in the end, Peden fell short, allowing Paul to resume his presidential campaign, although Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., wrapped up the nomination with a sweep of wins in Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Paul's native Texas.
Challenger: 'Republican of Convenience'
Peden, Paul's challenger and a CPA and city councilman in Friendswood, Texas, said Paul's national campaign awakened voters in the 14th District to exactly how much of a firebrand Paul is.
"He's a lifelong libertarian," Peden said in a telephone interview prior to Tuesday's vote. "He is only a Republican of convenience, not a Republican of conviction. He's a libertarian who runs as a Republican because a libertarian can't get elected in this district."
Despite calls from his supporters, Paul insists he will not run for president as an independent. But he has pledged to continue his Republican presidential bid, knowing full well that the odds — and delegate math — are now firmly against him.
Peden attacked Paul for missing votes in the House while he campaigned for president, not spending enough time in the 14th District and most important, for choosing ideological high ground over doing the job of a congressman, which is enacting legislation.
But even his opponent — and, apparently, his constituents — still respect the job Paul is doing in Congress.
A year ago, Peden wrote a laudatory letter about Paul and his decision to run for president — a letter Paul read aloud at campaign events.
In a fundraising letter to supporters when he shifted gears from his presidential to Congressional race, Paul feared voters may reject his bid for reelection in favor of a more traditional conservative.
"The D.C. neocons think their old dream is about to come true," he wrote. "They think they can defeat me in the Republican congressional primary in Texas, March 4. And you know what? They may be right."
Fortunately for Paul — and his band of revolutionaries — they were not.