Ron Paul leaves trail to vote against debt ceiling hike before final South Carolina primary push

Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and his GOP rivals are in the final stretch of campaigning before the South Carolina primary on Saturday. In his efforts to win over many conservative voters not convinced by Mitt Romney, he has refused to back down from his proposal to end the Federal Reserve. As AP reported:

Facing double-digit inflation in 1981, Congress created a commission to consider a role for gold in U.S. monetary policy. The 17-member panel rejected the idea of returning America to the gold standard — except for two dissenting members.

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The president’s challenge
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The president’s challenge

One was a little-known congressman from Texas named Ron Paul.

Today, Paul’s surprisingly strong race for the Republican presidential nomination is drawing new attention to a notion that long has been a cherished cause for a small group of conservatives but is considered a relic of history by mainstream economists and politicians.

Paul and his supporters would like to set a firm value for the U.S. dollar, much like when it was pegged to a specific amount of gold. They say prices would be stable and inflation controlled because the government couldn’t print more money than it had gold to back it up. This approach, Paul maintains, would address many of the economy’s problems.

Other Republican candidates haven’t joined him, though, and most experts dismiss the scheme as completely unfeasible in the modern global economy. For one thing, it would require most other countries to change their monetary systems. It would also preclude the ways that nations now manage the ups and downs of their economic cycles.

Ron Paul announced he would take a day away from the campaign trail on Wednesday to return to Washington to vote against a proposed rise in the debt ceiling. As AP explained:

Ron Paul is stepping off the presidential campaign trail to vote against raising the federal debt ceiling.

The Texas congressman will fly to Washington early Wednesday. He planned to return to South Carolina on Thursday morning, two days before the state’s first-in-the-South primary.

Paul has made concern over the federal debt and government spending the central tenet of his candidacy. He says he would trim $1 trillion from the federal budget in his first year as president and has called for steep cuts to military and overseas spending.

His message has found traction in the presidential contest. He placed second in the New Hampshire primary last week.

Paul’s campaign says his vote against the debt ceiling increase would signal what it called “displeasure at the spendthrift habits of the administration.”

As one of only two candidates in the GOP primary field who have served in the military, Paul is using his military ties to try to sway the veteran voting bloc in South Carolina ahead of the primary. As AP reported:

Mitt Romney has ex-POW John McCain vouching for him. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum highlights his time on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich frequently calls himself an “Army brat” who grew up on military bases.

While Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are the only GOP candidates to have worn a military uniform, all of the Republican presidential contenders are emphasizing their military ties these days in a state that’s home to 413,000 veterans and eight military bases, with thousands of people on active duty.

Paul, a flight surgeon in the 1960s who made his name as an antiwar congressman, is filling mailboxes with five-page letters that include a picture of him as a young draftee in a full-brimmed Air Force hat. “Let me begin by telling you that the troops know first and foremost that I am one of them,” he writes.

There’s a reason for the intensive courting: As long as South Carolina has been instrumental in deciding GOP nominees, the state’s voters have rewarded candidates with military service. Every GOP primary winner since Ronald Reagan in 1980 has been a veteran.

This year may end that streak. Polls show Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, leading the pack. With the economy pushing U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts to the back of voters’ concerns, some in South Carolina argue that GOP voters aren’t pining for the biggest hawk this time.

“Financially, people are in dire straits right now,” said state Sen. Lee Bright, a backer of Michele Bachmann before she left the race. “They realize that the more money we spend overseas the less money they are going to spend at home.”

Nonetheless, most of the candidates have spent considerable time along the South Carolina coastline, wooing active-duty military members and veterans — many of whom lean toward the GOP — clustered around the bases near Charleston that for many years fueled the state’s economy.

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