I see Rand Paul and Chris Christie led the latest New Hampshire poll of the probably GOP field, tying with
12% each. Forgoing all the caveats about a single poll in 2 years before the election, i think there are some interesting things to be said about the result. First, it highlights the divide between the establishment and Tea Party/Libertarian wings of the party. Christie is still the leading establishment choice despite his scandals, mainly because the rest of the field is so weak. Rand looks like he may end up as the major challenger from the right. But what I think is more interesting is why Rand Paul is so prominent in the GOP. I'd argue that it is mainly fortuitous historical timing. There's no other time in modern American politics where a far right libertarian could contrast himself favorably as the reasonable moderate voice in his party. His father was basically the same guy (with a bit less charisma), and was generally marginalized as a crank. So Paul, having set himself up with strong right wing cred, and with a small but dedicated libertarian base, can get away with kicking the extremists and moderating on certain non-fiscal issues. For example, criticizing Ted Nugent for calling Obama a "subhuman mongrel". The fact that this is more about the GOP than Paul himself is pretty obvious if you try to imagine the republican reaction to Nugent's racist insanity in the context of the 80's or 90's political landscape. If he even made the news, disavowing his comments would be automatic for any major political figure. Today, doing so is some sort of brave political stand. The truth is that Rand Paul, like his dad, is basically a right wing crank peddling childish economic policies he learned from reading a few terrible novels by a sociopath name Ayn Rand which he apparently mistook for academic texts. But nowadays being a crank is en vogue in the GOP.