For instance, Rep. Mick Mulvaney said the Texas senator “fell flat” and “missed an opportunity” to show he can lead the country and the party out of the political wilderness when he spoke last May in Columbia, S.C., at the Silver Elephant Dinner. It was the first of Cruz’s three appearances so far in the Palmetto State since last year.

“It was the same old, same old,” said Mulvaney, a Republican who represents the northern part of the state and was elected in the tea party wave of 2010. “It’s the same thing you see on Fox News every single night. I guess that’s fine for a certain segment of the Republican primary base in South Carolina, but the folks who are going to make a difference in the outcome are the folks who follow the issues much more deeply, are much more educated on the challenges we face. They’ll press people.”…

Here in South Carolina, there is a significant contingent of libertarian-minded voters, who are believed to make up more than 10 percent of the GOP primary electorate. In 2012, Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, took 13 percent of the vote in South Carolina, only to lose handily to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who romped his way through the primary.

Given that fact, Paul could be Cruz’s greatest threat here, especially considering the Kentucky senator’s ability to woo tea party activists, libertarians and now the party establishment.

“He can’t out-Rand Rand Paul,” Graham said.