This time there are a few different types of protest candidates. Ron Paul tapped into Republican dissatisfaction with the war on terror and the Iraq War. Now it is Donald Trump directly challenging the GOP establishment’s orthodoxies, particularly on immigration, tapping into a base of Middle American radicals and their economic anxiety. And Ted Cruz is assaulting the party’s moral character, correctly indicting party leadership for fecklessness on issues like abortion.
In contrast, Rand Paul’s campaign has failed to establish him as a renegade. In the run-up to his campaign, Paul found a way to join the hawkish protests of Sen. Tom Cotton and others against President Obama’s negotiations with Iran. He found a way to support the bombing of ISIS, a big no-no for Paulites who view themselves as consistent non-interventionists and even pacifists.
Instead, Paul has tried to affiliate himself with the core of the party by highlighting the intensity of his Republican commitments. Think of the time he decided to show a metaphor rather than tell one, when he used an actual chainsaw to desecrate a copy of the federal tax code.
Paul was supposed to be a different kind of Republican. Instead, he has become merely the “kind of” candidate. He’s kind of a libertarian. He’s kind of against dumb wars. He’s kind of for reaching out to new Republican constituencies. And therefore he’s kind of…not that interesting anymore.