Given Paul’s political rise — he defeated an establishment-aligned Republican in a 2010 primary — it was natural to label him a tea partier. We have done it too — repeatedly. It’s the easiest short-hand for a GOP outsider. But more and more, it’s looking like that label doesn’t really fit. While Paul is certainly aligned with the tea party on a lot of stuff, the label doesn’t describe him as well as it does someone like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). An op-ed Paul wrote Thursday in Time magazine was just the latest example of that. The things Paul said in it are not the kind of things you would expect from a tea partier.
And indeed, it seems actual tea partiers are apparently noticing that Paul isn’t exactly their cup of tea. The new McClatchy-Marist College poll of the 2016 GOP presidential primary shows Paul’s share of the tea party vote dropping from 20 percent in April to 7 percent today — tied for fifth. Cruz, meanwhile, leads this demographic with 15 percent.