U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). (JEFF HAYNES/REUTERS)

Of particular note are decades old allegations of homophobia and racism associated with a newsletter with his name on it.

Paul went from ignored to a target, a testament to his growing political influence heading into the Iowa primaries.

The media continues to portray Paul as a spoiler but his faithful still flock and his poll numbers continue to soar. His burgeoning appeal rests in the desire of many voters for a political alternative—a desire for a dramatic shift in governance and in U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans desire a third party. And, for many, Ron Paul is viewed as a politician who comes close to the third-party alternative to the Republican/Democratic duopoly.

Paul has a common sense approach to deficit reduction and wants to bring home the troops and end all foreign wars. The latter goal appeals to Americans in both main parities who are put off by the costly and casualty-ridden wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Paul could also win supporters drawn to his call to end government intrusion, at public expense, into people’s private lives.

Paul’s more practical political positions could help voters move beyond the newsletters. His support for ending the militarized war on drugs—which has contributed to the mass incarceration of the poor and people of color in the last two decades—is quite progressive and far from racist.

Some critics view Paul as a “dangerous isolationist” for opposing pre-emptive strikes and interventionist foreign policy. Meanwhile, President Bush was highly criticized for instituting secret prisons, pre-emptive strikes and drone attacks that continue under the Obama administration.

Ron Paul to some is considered quirky and eccentric. He is also frugal. While he has stirred controversy for criticizing social safety nets, Paul is just as critical of “corporatism,” or what he calls bail outs and corporate welfare.

His platforms straddle the Occupy and Tea Party movements—attracting support in both camps.

The newsletter and their lingering allegations of racism and homophobia could prove to be Paul’s tragic flaw. Or maybe voters will look beyond them and embrace policies that are sensible and attractive.

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and blogger. You can reach her at freemancoulbary@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC.

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