Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is enjoying something of a moment.

The libertarian-minded congressman placed second in the Iowa Straw Poll and a couple of recent polls show him getting as much support as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

In last month’s Iowa debate, Paul performed well but also reminded voters that on many issues, he is outside the mainstream. His challenge tonight is to make a case for himself as a top-tier candidate rather than a fringe figure with passionate fans.

Paul has an easy angle in attacking Rick Perry. The Texas governor, who has emerged as the frontrunner in the race, is debating on Tuesday for the first time this cycle.

Paul knows Perry better than any of the other contenders; he went after the governor in a web ad yesterday.

If he can avoid a fight over his more outlandish foreign policy views and stick to attacking Perry’s record, he could emerge from this debate even stronger.