I’m officially confused. I thought the tea party was all about small government. Or was WaPo right that no one’s quite sure what the tea party’s all about anymore?

Paul, the Gulf Coast congressman whose 2008 presidential run excited libertarians nationwide, even though he didn’t get much traction overall, is considered by many to be the “father of the Tea Parties.” But he has three opponents in the March Republican primary – more than he has faced in his past six primary campaigns combined…

John Gay, Paul’s third opponent, said he has attended several Tea Parties and related meetings. Both Wall, a machine supervisor, and Graney, a former small-business owner, have helped organize local rallies.

Tea Party associations aside, many of the challengers’ criticisms echo concerns of Paul’s past opponents: that he is too focused on his national ambitions; that his views are too extreme; that he doesn’t support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; that he votes “no” on everything, including federal aid for his district after Hurricane Ike.

“The word I keep hearing is ‘ineffective,’ ” said Gay, a school business administrator. “This district is not really being represented as it could be.”

The only sin Paul’s clearly guilty of in tea-party eyes is earmarking; his foreign policy is obviously a major issue, but unless I missed a memo, there’s no concrete foreign policy (i.e. isolationist vs. interventionist) that’s been settled on by a majority of tea partiers. Palin took a clear stance on national security issues in her speech, but that was the whole point of A.C. Kleinheider’s objection to it — that she was grafting neoconservative Republican ideas on terrorism onto a movement that ultimately has little to do with that. Exit question: If not even Ron Paul’s safe from tea party challenges, who is? Palin, and probably Marco Rubio, and … who else?