Just days before the Jan. 3 caucuses in Iowa, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is receiving a lot of attention after surging to the top of state polls in recent weeks. According to the Associated Press:

As in his two prior quixotic campaigns for president, Paul has toiled for months as a fringe candidate best known for staking out libertarian positions. As every other Republican candidate lined up to attack President Barack Obama’s health care law and to promise tax cuts, Paul again demanded audits of the Federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard.

Leading in some state polls, Paul is getting a look from mainstream voters in Iowa, where the 76-year-old obstetrician has emerged as a serious contender in the Jan. 3 caucuses — and in other early voting states, should he pull off a victory.

The sudden rush of attention to Paul’s resume hasn’t been kind. He’s spent the past week disowning racist and homophobic screeds in newsletters he published decades ago, including one following the 1992 riots in Los Angeles that read, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to collect their welfare checks three days after rioting began.”

The Fact Checker examined Paul’s explanations for the newsletters and found them lacking:

Paul offers implausible explanations for why so many derogatory statements made it into his publications, insisting he knew nothing about them. It’s hard to believe that a man who wants to oversee the entire U.S. government — albeit a smaller version — would provide zero oversight of his publications, or even bother to read them from time to time.

The Texas congressman has to take responsibility for the newsletters that bear his name, or at least acknowledge negligence as the former head of the company that produced them. He earns three Pinocchios for failing to do so.

During his tenure in Congress, Paul has introduced many ambitious and controversial pieces of legislation, but has had limited success in actually getting bills passed. As David A. Fahrenthold reported:

Paul has become a surprising force in the Republican presidential race, promising to use “the bully pulpit of the presidency” to demand deep cutbacks across government. But Paul has had only limited success using his current pulpit — a seat in Congress — to rally lawmakers behind his ideas.

Of the 620 measures that Paul has sponsored, just four have made it to a vote on the House floor. Only that one has been signed into law.

House colleagues say the genial Paul has often shown little interest in the laborious one-on-one lobbying required to build a coalition behind his ideas. This year, for instance, Paul has sponsored 47 bills, including measures to withdraw from the United Nations, repeal the federal law banning guns in school zones and let private groups coin their own money.

None has moved, and 32 have failed to attract a single co-sponsor.