(The American Spectator) -- By W. James Antle, III --
On Tuesday, the Tea Party movement scored its first major statewide victory over the Republican establishment. Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul trounced Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson by 59 percent to 35 percent, winning the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY).
Grayson was the handpicked candidate of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In a normal year, that might have assured him the nomination. Instead such ties became a liability, one Grayson exacerbated by demonstrating a sense of entitlement to a Senate seat last seen when Martha Coakley turned up her nose at shaking hands with voters outside Fenway Park.
Rand Paul tapped into the primary electorate's anger at Barack Obama, bipartisan bailouts of private industry, and the steady growth of the federal government. But the son of 11-term libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) won in large part because he knew when to follow in his father's footsteps and when to chart his own course.
"Have you ever made an embarrassing mistake?" conservative Christian broadcaster James Dobson asked. Dobson went on to say that he did when he initially endorsed Grayson. "Senior members of the GOP told me Dr. Paul is pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent," Dobson said. "But now I've received further information from OB/GYNs in Kentucky whom I trust, and from interviewing the candidate himself."
Grayson tried to present Paul as a caricature of libertarianism. His campaign manager described Paul as a "pro-choice marijuana advocate." In fact, Paul was -- like his father -- more conservative on abortion, marriage, immigration, and other social issues. The younger Paul described himself as "100 percent pro-life" and even though he preferred to overturn Roe v. Wade through federal court jurisdiction stripping he pledged to support the mainstream pro-life movement on national legislation.
After misrepresenting Paul's views on social issues, few voters trusted Grayson when he shifted to foreign policy where he might have been on more solid ground. The Grayson campaign enlisted Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, and Rick Santorum, among other supporters of a neoconservative foreign policy. Yet their attacks did not move the polls -- and here Rand Paul did not completely follow his father's playbook.
Consider the question of whether 9/11 was blowback from American foreign policy. When the subject came up in the 2008 Republican presidential debates, Paul and Giuliani squared off. A day after the exchange, Paul triumphantly presented a reading list to educate the former New York City mayor on the theory that U.S. interventionism could make American less safe from terrorism. But he was perfunctory in addressing Giulani's direct charge: that the Texas congressman blamed America for the terrorist attacks.
When Rand Paul faced similar criticism, he wasted no time explaining blowback to Republican primary voters. Instead he energetically disassociated himself from "blame America first." He didn't distance himself from his father, who he noted lived near the Pentagon at the time of the 9/11 attacks. But he did strike a very different tone.
"We were attacked on 9/11 and fighting back was the right thing to do," the younger Paul said, looking straight into the television camera. "Trey Grayson, your shameful TV ad is a lie and it dishonors you." Rand continued to oppose the Iraq war, but emphasized he was "strong on defense," opposing civilian trials for terror detainees, and said he was not yet ready to pull out of Afghanistan or close Guantanamo Bay.
Paul united his father's national army of libertarian followers, who became his avid fundraising base, with a much larger group of rank-and-file conservatives who were ready for someone who would fight for limited government. It was a union of Ron Paul Republicans and Rush Limbaugh Republicans. In April, an exit poll taken at the Tea Party protest at the National Mall showed the demonstrators' favorite politicians were Sarah Palin and Ron Paul. Rand Paul, with his focus on the size of government, unified both wings of the Tea Party movement...MORE...LINK