Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican Ron Paul announced Tuesday that he's forming a campaign exploratory committee as he moves closer to again seeking the Republican nomination for president.
The Texas congressman told about 60 supporters at a Des Moines airport hotel that he would decide whether to run for president by next month.
"I would be very surprised if I don't make that decision in the month of May," he said.
The announcement came in Iowa because the state's caucuses lead off the presidential nominating process. Next year's are scheduled for Feb. 6. Paul finished fifth in the 2008 caucuses.
Paul is popular among tea party supporters, but if he seeks the GOP nomination he likely will have to compete for those voters with other candidates.
Paul, who has visited Iowa seven times since the 2008 election, called his candidacy "a reflection of a grass-roots movement."
He called for strict fiscal policy, and warned that the nation's monetary policy risked a financial crisis worse than in 2008.
"They still don't have enough money in Washington. They get into trouble and they massively print up money," he said. "They are perpetuating the same habits that gave us our last crisis."
By forming an exploratory committee, which allows a candidate to raise and spend money that can be used toward a presidential campaign, Paul joins former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Atlanta businessman Herman Cain and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Republican former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also have taken steps toward formally exploring presidential bids, but they haven't yet formed exploratory committees.
Paul said the timing of his Tuesday announcement was aimed at allowing him to qualify for a May 5 debate in South Carolina that is only open to those who have created exploratory committees.
He said he would spend the next several weeks evaluating whether his supporters' enthusiasm would translate into financial backing.
"I do see a lot of support," he said. "But sometimes you get a lot of support from vocal supporters, but you don't know if they are fooling you."
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