Election 101: Ron Paul sets sights on 2012. Ten things to know about him.

Ron Paul is hoping the third time’s the charm. The Texas congressman declared his (third) candidacy for president Friday on ‘Good Morning America.’ The ‘intellectual grandfather’ of the tea party movement is a constitutional purist who’s as popular among his fervent followers as he is disliked by the GOP establishment. He’s a dark horse pushing for an upset victory.

1.Why is he running – again?

Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R) speaks during his announcement of an exploratory committee in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 26. (Brian C. Frank / Reuters)

Representative Paul is running as much to promote his issues as to get in the White House, says Brian Doherty, a senior writer at libertarian Reason Magazine.

“That’s always what Ron Paul has been in this for,” says Mr. Doherty. “He’s not in politics to do well for himself, but to get a set of ideas out. Running for president is a surprisingly successful way to get that message out.”

Paul has already brought a libertarian flavor to the race, highlighted issues he deems important, and energized a base of voters discouraged with the religious right-dominated GOP.

And, with the US facing a gaping deficit, several ongoing entanglements overseas, and a weak GOP field, Paul sees a perfect storm in 2012.

“I believe there are literally millions of more people now concerned about the very things I talked about four years ago.... The excessive spending, the entitlement system, the foreign policy, as well as the monetary system,” he said in Iowa, after announcing formation of his exploratory committee.

What is his platform?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas speaks during a news conference on April 26 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)

It’s a unique mix of traditional conservatism and libertarianism that makes Paul such an unusual presidential candidate. He is fiercely antiwar and calls for an end to all military engagements overseas; he’s a proponent of fiscal discipline and harsh spending cuts; and he’s a strict constitutionalist who has long called for the dissolution of entire federal departments or institutions, including, famously, the Federal Reserve.

His unusual stances attract an equally unusual coalition of supporters: ACLU sympathizers and youths who like his opposition to the Patriot Act and his call to decriminalize marijuana; tea partyers who appreciate his strict fiscal message; religious voters who agree with his opposition to abortion; and antiwar types who back his opposition to the Iraq war.

Who, exactly, is his base?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, in this Feb. 11 file photo. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters / File)

Paul is hoping to capture the votes that most of his more mainstream GOP opponents will miss. That means libertarians, young voters, constitutionalists, and tea party purists.

And, says Doherty, Paul has a secret fan base that could tip him into the big leagues: apathetic voters.

“To a large extent, Ron Paul is picking from that crowd – apathetics. If you can find that politically, that’s huge,” says Doherty, saying more than 40 percent of Americans didn’t vote in 2008.

“Even people who aren’t political love his message, and they love him.”

What are his strengths?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas delivers remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington on Feb. 11. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters / File)

Ron Paul has a proven ability to raise money, he is well known within the Republican Party, and he has a core of enthusiastic supporters,” says Peter Hanson, a political scientist at the University of Denver.

Indeed, during the fourth quarter of 2007, Paul outraised all of his GOP contenders in the 2008 race, bringing in about $20 million. He has also set the GOP record for the greatest 24-hour fundraising drive, raising $4.2 million in a November 2007 “money bomb.”

“His fundraising mojo is strong and proven,” says Doherty.

That’s thanks in part to a legion of loyal and zealous followers, says Wes Benedict. “His motivated activist base is a big strength for him,” says Mr. Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee in Washington. “People who like Ron Paul like him a whole lot.”

Paul also comes across as authentic and unwavering in his beliefs, says Benedict. “He’s been consistent for 40 years, even his detractors say that he tells the truth the way he sees it and he sticks to his principles.”

What about his weaknesses?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas greets supporters at the University of New Hampshire on March 24 in Durham, N.H. (Jim Cole / AP / File)

“The party,” says Doherty, “hates him.”

Paul is the kooky uncle in the GOP family, the one who flouts political conventions, represents the fringes of Republican ideology, and refuses to walk the GOP line, says Professor Hanson.

“Many of Paul’s views are considered eccentric or downright unacceptable,” he says. “For example, he’s suggested that Social Security and Medicare may be unconstitutional and should be phased out. National Republicans look at a Paul candidacy as a recipe for disaster.”

It will be easy for rivals to paint Paul – who once said the 9/11 attacks were the Muslim world’s response to American military intervention overseas – as extremist or radical.

He’s also 75 and will be 77 by the time the 2012 election rolls around, making him the oldest GOP contender by a long shot.

If nothing else, says Doherty, “he can convincingly run as a true outsider.”

How's his war chest?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas speaks to students at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on March 24. (Jim Cole / AP / File)

Between his Liberty PAC, which can only be used to cover certain expenses, and his campaign committee, Paul has about $1.9 million cash on hand and is poised to raise much more. Major donors include Oracle Chairman Jeffrey Henley, and employees of Morning Star Co., Lockheed Martin, and Oracle Corp. Paul, who revolutionized online fundraising, inspires phenomenal fundraising feats, and once raised more than $700,000 in a 24-hour “money bomb.”

What is his political experience?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota greets Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas after speaking at a rally for home school advocates on March 23 at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 1,000 home school advocates were cheered on by three potential Republican presidential candidates who joined their cause. (Charlie Neibergall / AP / File)

Paul served as the congressman from the 22nd District of Texas (1976-1977 and 1979-1985), and he currently represents the 14th District of Texas (1997-present).

What is his family and religious background?

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas speaks during a news conference at his Iowa campaign office on May 10 in Ankeny. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)

Paul is married to Carolyn “Carol” Wells, with whom he has five children: Ronald “Ronnie” Paul Jr., Lori Paul Pyeatt, Randal “Rand” Paul (the junior senator from Kentucky), Robert Paul, and Joy Paul-LeBlanc; and 17 grandchildren. Raised Lutheran, Paul is now a church-going Baptist who opposes abortion, but prefers to keep his faith personal. “I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena,” he said on his campaign website.

Has he written any books?

Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R) speaks to a gathering of tea party supporters at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville, S.C., on May 5. (Richard Shiro / AP)

A prolific author, Paul has penned more than 10 books, including “Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution after 200 Years,” “A Foreign Policy of Freedom,” “End The Fed,” “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” and his most recent, “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.”

In his own words

Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, then a candidate for US Senate, enjoys enjoys a light moment with his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, during a campaign event in Erlanger, Ky., on Oct. 2, 2010. (Ed Reinke / AP / File)

"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas."