Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul said Wednesday he's considering a 2012 run for his state's open seat in the US Senate.

"It's certainly crossed my mind," Paul told The Hill after a poll found him to be a strong contender for the seat, to be vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, who announced her retirement last week.

The survey by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, released Wednesday, found that Paul was Texas Republicans' second choice of candidates to replace Hutchison, just three points behind state Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Dewhurst had 23 percent; Paul had 20.

"I was surprised," Paul responded, hedging that it wouldn't be the first time in his 20-year House career that he's entertained the prospect of a Senate run. "[S]o I don't know that it means much."

The Republican nominee for Senate would have a strong advantage given Texas's reliable conservative tilt, particularly in a presidential election year where high GOP voter turnout is expected.

If victorious, Paul would join his son Rand Paul in the chamber, who was elected to Kentucky's US Senate seat in November.

Paul's iconoclastic image, which has earned him something of a national cult following, could serve as strong asset in generating enthusiasm for a run, but his willingness to fight with party elders may pose fundraising problems.

Though he's been a party-line Republican vote on issues such as taxes, guns and abortion, Paul has forcefully taken on the GOP hierarchy on matters like war, civil liberties and drug policy.

He ran for president in 1988 and 2008, and did not rule out a 2012 run.