Texas Rep. Ron Paul won’t run for re-election to his House seat in 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Paul, who is currently serving his 12th term in Congress, will instead spend the bulk of his time on the 2012 Republican contest.

“Dr. Paul will not seek re-election ... and will focus his efforts on winning the presidency,” Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told The Fix.

Paul’s decision comes even as he would have been a very strong favorite to win reelection in 2012 — assuming he didn’t win the GOP presidential nomination, of course).

He ran for reelection to his House seat in 2008 while he was seeking the GOP presidential nomination. Even after spending much of that election campaigning nationally, Paul easily turned aside a primary challenge from a local city councilman, winning by 40 points.

Paul’s 14th district south of Houston will change under a new congressional redistricting map, but it will remain heavily Republican, and the GOP should easily retain it.

Paul remains a long shot for the GOP presidential nomination, but with his active and vociferous group of supporters, he will continue to raise big money — he raised the second-most of all GOP presidential candidates who have reported second-quarter totals — and could be a dark horse in next month’s Ames straw poll.

Paul has served three different stints in Congress. He won a special election in 1976 but lost the general election later that same year. He then spent three terms in Congress from 1978 to 1984 before losing badly in a U.S. Senate primary against Phil Gramm. Paul was elected to his current Congressional stint in 1996. In 1998 he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president.

Paul’s departure does not mean the end of the Paul era, though. His son, Rand Paul, is a freshman senator from Kentucky who espouses some of the same libertarian and tea party values that his father championed.

In a statement, Rand Paul called his father’s legislative record “perhaps unparalleled.”

“There probably has never been a more consistent believer in limited government in Congress,” Rand Paul said. “America deserves a statesman like Ron Paul as her president — a man I am proud to call my father.”

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