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Republican slugfests feature unlikely combatant

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Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012 6:33 am | Updated: 6:34 am, Sat Jan 28, 2012.

Fox is now taking over the increasingly popular Ultimate Fighting Championship, featuring fast and bruising action in the Octagon.

No offense to the UFC gladiators, but we are finding another combat sport more compelling these days: the Republican debates.

Perhaps the most unlikely combatant is a 76-year-old retired ob/gyn doctor from Texas named Ronald Ernest Paul. Paul came in third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, and he promises to stick around throughout the primary season, throwing jabs at younger opponents Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

The quick-witted Paul has a devoted following, including many voters under 30 attracted to his mantra of less government and more personal liberty.

His popularity is rather confounding.

Hardcore Republicans love his cry for reducing the cost of goverment. He represents a swath of Texas along the Gulf that relies heavily on agriculture, yet he opposes ag subsidies. He refuses to even sign up for a Congressional pension. He wants to dismantle most federal departments. He is against abortion and he wants less regulation of business. He is an outspoken advocate of the right to bear arms.

But conservatives choke on other Paul polices. He wants to reduce the military (he was against the Iraq war). He opposes the federal War on Drugs. He's generally hands-off on foreign policy.

Ron Paul, the experts tell us, won't win the current Republican battle royale.

Probably true. He's bringing some new and creative moves to the contest, though, and some of his ideas deserve the broader discussion he's generating.

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