The last time Ron Paul’s congressional district was redrawn, he ended up with NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a new neighbor. A group of Houston businessmen soon invited their new congressman for a primer on the value of the space shuttle.

Paul’s reply came in a note they thought was a joke. “He told them space travel isn’t in the Constitution,” said Patricia Gray, a former state Democratic lawmaker once nudged to challenge the Republican.

Paul’s dismissal wouldn’t matter. He’d still cruise to re-election as always.

With polls giving Paul a chance to win Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, the mercurial congressman has once again dismissed the conventional political playbook. He spent the last weekend before the 2012 voting begins at home in warm Lake Jackson rather than campaigning in the cold of Iowa.

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