Video: Rand Paul shrugs when asked if he could see himself eventually supporting gay marriage

“I’m old fashioned, I’m a traditionalist,” he says. “I believe in old-fashioned traditional marriage.” Of course, so did Obama circa 2008.

How do you suppose Ted Cruz would respond to this question?

“Society’s changing,” he said. “I mean, people change their minds all the time on this issue, and even within the Republican Party, there are people whose child turns out to be gay and they’re like, oh well maybe I want to rethink this issue. So it’s been rethought. The President’s rethought the issue. So I mean, a lot of people have rethought the issue.”…

“The bottom line is, I’m old fashioned, I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “I believe in old-fashioned traditional marriage. But, I don’t really think the government needs to be too involved with this, and I think that the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issue.”

“You could rethink it at some point, too?” I asked him.

He shrugged, and gave me a half-grimace. It wasn’t a yes or a no, but it revealed Paul’s complicated dance as he tries to color outside the lines of the Republican Party.

Skip to 1:40 of the clip below if you want to see what a shrugging half-grimace looks like. It’s probably the best he can do under the circumstances. That question is easy for a guy like Cruz who’s running as an unapologetic social conservative, much harder for a guy like Rand who’s pitching to social cons and libertarians. The “I believe in traditional marriage now but who knows in a few years?” approach is a smart way to impress … well, nobody, really, but the uncertainty of the answer at least leaves room for each side to say “he agrees with us!”

In fairness to him, it’s not unheard of for a candidate named Paul to buck libertarian orthodoxy on a hot-button issue. As far as I’m aware, Ron has consistently called for stronger border enforcement contra the open-borders advocacy of libertarian ideologues. He and Rand are both pro-life too; libertarians tend to lean pro-choice in my experience although there seems to be more room for dissent on that issue than there is on immigration. Am I wrong, though, in thinking that legalizing gay marriage is basically Libertarianism 101? I know there’s at least one poll out there that suggests otherwise, but like this guy, I can’t recall encountering a single libertarian who opposes it. It seems to fall under the core principle that whatever two people consent to do is no one else’s business, so long as no one else is harmed by it. If that’s the case, it’s … odd that someone like Rand who came up immersed in the libertarian tradition would feel differently, especially at a moment when the wider public is shifting towards legalization. This is why people on both sides of the conservative/libertarian divide get suspicious about him. Either his foundation in libertarianism is much less solid than his dad’s and the adoring base of rEVOLutionaries whom Rand hopes to win or he’s BS-ing about his true feelings on this issue to reassure social cons that he’s not a loose cannon. Guess we’ll find out which it is once he’s a lame-duck president circa 2022.

Exit question: Is this going to make his life permanently harder with social conservatives or is it a blip? The Hill noted last week that Cruz and Bobby Jindal got roaring support from the crowd at the Values Voters Summit while Rand, who conceded a few months ago that abortion laws probably aren’t changing anytime soon, was received politely but tepidly. Rand’s candidacy could be shaping up as the converse of Ron’s in the sense that Ron focused mainly on foreign policy critiques and monetary policy, with social issues secondary. I think Rand would like to follow that model but will end up getting sidetracked by social issues as conservatives demand that he explain himself further.