Vital Signs

Which Way for Rand Paul?

Of all the Republican successes in the midterm elections, perhaps none has the potential to be as consequential as the elevation of Rand Paul to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky.  Paul was the biggest and most genuine Tea Party triumph in November.  As the son and ideological heir of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), he may also give an older, more authentic conservatism its first upper-chamber voice in over 60 years.

Note the cautious “may.”  Against determined opposition, Rand Paul proved himself to be a very skilled politician.  The neoconservatives and the Republican establishment pulled out all the stops to deny him the GOP nomination.  Paul won the primary in a 59-percent “Randslide.”  Sensing an opportunity, the Democrats ran hard against Paul’s deviations from the safe Beltway Republican line.  Paul took 56 percent of the vote on Election Day.

But the very political skills that helped Paul overcome the ruling class in both parties make some observers fear that he will be co-opted once in Washington, especially when it comes to continuing his father’s tradition of supporting a noninterventionist foreign policy.  Consider what might have been the pivotal moment in Rand Paul’s primary campaign.  His opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, ran an ad interspersing some of Paul’s comments in support of his father’s presidential candidacy with...

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