Stereotyped for decades as pro-pot, pro-porn and pro-pacifism, libertarians are becoming mainstream.

Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), libertarians hope to become a dominant wing of the GOP by tapping into a potent mix of war weariness, economic anxiety and frustration with federal overreach in the fifth year of Barack Obama’s presidency…

[Ron] Paul and his allies see the re-examination of their ideas as a return to the Republican tradition. The party nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964, who was by any modern conception one of them. Ronald Reagan proclaimed in a 1975 interview that “libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.” But small-government westerners were not enough to forge a winning coalition, so the former California governor cozied up to Southern evangelicals ahead of 1980.

“Libertarian became a bad word in Republican circles when it became a political party associated with libertine ideas – meaning you can do whatever you want, you’re not grounded in moral behavior or adherence to certain traditions,” said Jesse Benton, who chaired Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and managed Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate race. “Republicans value individual liberty, and that means cost-limited constitutional government and respect for individual empowerment rather than an empowered state. In many ways, as libertarianism expands in the party, we’re getting back to its basics.”

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Rand Paul’s well publicized filibuster last month has vaulted him up the list of Republican contenders in PPP’s newest look ahead to the 2016 Presidential contest…

The big move though has come from Paul. In early February he was in 6th place among Republican contenders at just 10%. Now he’s vaulted all the way up to 2nd place at 17%. Chris Christie is 3rd at 15% and Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush are tied for 4th at 12%. Rounding out the folks we polled are Rick Santorum at 5%, Bobby Jindal at 4%, Rick Perry at 2%, and Susana Martinez at 1%.

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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s threat to filibuster any new gun restrictions is gathering steam, as a dozen of his Republican colleagues have now signed onto his plan.

The Kentucky Republican and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) first wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late last month to warn him of their intention to try to tie up the Senate if, as planned, Reid moved forward with legislation that would expand background checks and attempt to crack down on interstate gun trafficking.

Reid is expected to bring a gun-control bill to the floor as early as next week, or perhaps the following week, and Paul is renewing his vow to try to block the measure. Paul’s follow-up letter, obtained by POLITICO, bears Monday’s date and is signed by 13 Republicans, including fellow potential 2016 presidential aspirant Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who signed on shortly after Paul’s first threat was issued — and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas.

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“I can’t adequately describe how unwilling the American people are to get involved in another war in the Middle East,” said one representative. “We’re almost unable to respond,” given what the United States has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, said another. He described intervention proposals as “half-baked” and argued that “the last thing we need is something ineffective.” A third member summed up the public mood this way: “We are not just war-weary, we are war-wary.”

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed caution about venturing onto Syria’s slippery slope. “This is not a tragedy of our making,” warned one House veteran. He argued that countries in the region need to decide what they want. “Absent that consensus, you can’t act.” This longtime member noted that President Obama won’t be able to do much in Syria without support from Democrats: “You can’t be a war president without having a war party.”

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But basking in Paul’s reflected glory is one thing. The question facing Senate Republicans, and the entire GOP, is how far they want to hang with the libertarian cool kids. True, the new ideas and energy generated by a high-profile iconoclast such as Paul are something the party sorely needs after last year’s electoral setback left the GOP Senate looking stale and impotent. But that particular brand of ideology, with its intractable belief that nearly all federal government is unnecessary, also carries deep risk—particularly as the party tries to woo minority voters who are more likely to view government activism favorably or retain seniors fearful that their federal benefits will be cut.

There may be no better test case for how much Republicans are willing to embrace the current libertarian moment than the potential candidacy of Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who is publicly contemplating running for the Senate. Although he reiterated last week that he still hasn’t made a decision, if Amash runs, he might very well emerge as the favorite to win the GOP nomination and compete for the seat currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin…

[A]s Amash might ultimately demonstrate, libertarianism’s fiscal side shrinks the party’s tent. The perception that the GOP favors the rich—something Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged last week while unveiling his committee’s blueprint for revival—had a lot to do with the party’s defeat in 2012, as Mitt Romney could attest. Trimming and shelving government programs that help the middle class and the poor risks exacerbating that perception. Moreover, Paul won’t wear the yoke well as a standard-bearer, as shown by his zag on immigration reform this week. His views toward American isolationism and marijuana decriminalization don’t jibe with those of the bulk of his caucus.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that conservatives fighting to uphold the federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman are going to “lose that battle.”…

“If we keep it that way, maybe we can still have the discussion go on without making the decision go all the way one way or all the way the other way. Because I think, right now, if we say, ‘Oh, we’re only going to have, we believe in a federally mandated one-man-one-woman marriage,’ we’re going to lose that battle, because the country’s going the other way right now,” he said…

“If we were to say each state can decide, I think a good 25, 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe if we allow the debate to go on for another couple of decades, and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people,” he said.

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“Look, the Republican Party isn’t going to change,” former Sen. Rick Santorum said in an interview. “If we do change, we’ll be the Whig Party.”

Santorum continued: “We’re not the Libertarian Party, we’re the Republican Party.”

“If we had candidates in the last two presidential elections who weren’t ashamed of the positions they had on these issues and played offense, instead of listening to the same people who now want to abandon the issues, we would’ve been successful,” said the 2012 GOP runner-up. “And then after they lose, they go and blame social conservatives when the only folks talking about those issues were on the other side!”

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Via Mediaite and MFP.

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You can dismiss everything [Maher] says easily, logically, emotionally and bring up all the myriad ways in which he’s just WRONG WRONG WRONG and how he’s really a COMMIE DOUCHEBAG who hates womenz and all that (that is what unmoderated comments sections are for, right?).

But for anybody interested in growing the influence and impact of liberatarian ideas, it’s worth thinking about the ways in which the libertarian identity fails to move a guy who is anti-prohibition, anti-empire (belatedly!), pro free expression, and pro-much more that falls in line with a libertarian perspective. For better or worse, a Venn diagram of Maher and libertarianism is going to show a huge amount of overlap on things. The same is common among right-wingers too, where many people agree with libertarians on anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of issues but recoil from any association with the label or the beautiful, clean-smelling, super-smart, and just-swell folks who self-identify as libertarian.

Without betraying core values, are there ways we can reach these simpatico folks on the right or the left, so as to kickstart (perpetuate!) what Matt Welch and I once bravely called “The Libertarian Moment” and wrote a whole book about?