Associated Press

HOUSTON – Ron Paul, the iconoclastic nine-term congressman from southeast Texas, took the first step Thursday toward launching a second presidential bid in 2008, this time as a Republican.

Paul filed incorporation papers in Texas on Thursday to create a presidential exploratory committee that allows him and his supporters to collect money on behalf of his bid. This will be Paul’s second try for the White House; he was the Libertarian nominee for president in 1988.

Kent Snyder, the chairman of Paul’s exploratory committee and a former staffer on Paul’s Libertarian campaign, said the congressman knows he’s a long shot.

"There’s no question that it’s an uphill battle, and that Dr. Paul is an underdog," Snyder said. "But we think it’s well worth doing and we’ll let the voters decide."

Paul, of Lake Jackson, acknowledges that the national GOP has never fully embraced him despite his nine terms in office under its banner. He gets little money from the GOP’s large traditional donors, but benefits from individual conservative and Libertarian donors outside Texas. He bills himself as "The Taxpayers’ Best Friend," and is routinely ranked either first or second in the House of Representatives by the National Taxpayers Union, a national group advocating low taxes and limited government.

He describes himself as a lifelong Libertarian running as a Republican.

Paul was not available for comment Thursday, Snyder said.

But he said the campaign will test its ability to attract financial and political support before deciding whether to launch a full-fledged campaign. Snyder said Paul is not running just to make a point or to try to ensure that his issues are addressed, but to win.

Paul is expected to formally announce his bid in the next week or two, Snyder said.

Snyder said Paul and his supporters are not intimidated by the presence of nationally known and better-financed candidates such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona or former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

"This is going to be a grassroots American campaign," he said. "For us, it’s either going to happen at the grassroots level or it’s not."

Paul limits his view of the role of the federal government to those duties laid out in the U.S. Constitution. As a result, he sometimes casts votes that appear at odds with his constituents and other Republicans. He was the only Republican congressman to vote against Department of Defense appropriations for fiscal year 2007.

The vote against the defense appropriations bill, he said, was because of his opposition to the war in Iraq, which he said was "not necessary for our actual security."

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