The Church of Paul and Paul

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 14 2011 8:13 AM

The Church of Paul and Paul

If you missed it over the weekend, I used my time at CPAC to try and explain how Ron Paul's acolytes have become such a pivotal segment of the modern GOP.

Four years ago, Rand Paul was helping out his father on a presidential campaign that was not taken very seriously. This was fair, in horse-race terms. Ron Paul seemed like the sort of candidate who runs, makes a statement, introduces an issue, and fades away. The issues were abolishing the Federal Reserve, ending both wars in Central Asia, abolishing the entitlement state, and ending the war on drugs. No Republican candidate adopted any of these issues. Paul's supporters, younger and rowdier and more akin to quoting Murray Rothbard than other Republicans, were grudgingly accepted.

Fast forward to CPAC 2011. The economic portions of Ron Paul's agenda are no longer controversial. Rand Paul is a U.S. senator who can command media attention and confused sports fans.

"It's not just that Rand is a senator," says William Thompson, a Georgia activist attending with Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty—the group he set up after shutting down his 2008 presidential bid. "He's one of the senators everyone knows. If you ask somebody who doesn't follow politics to name a politician, they might name him."

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And read Annie Lowrey on Paul's economics.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.