Rubio is betting heavily on the insider’s path — even making a few subtle moves that created daylight between him and Paul. Rubio refused to join Paul in the Senate tea party caucus, and earlier this month he sent a letter to the other GOP freshmen touting aid to Israel — after Paul called for an end to all U.S. foreign aid.

Matt Kibbe, president of the tea-party-affiliated FreedomWorks, said both styles can be effective, but he suggested the approach employed by Rubio, a former Florida House speaker, will help take the tea party to its third act: enacting legislation and reforms…

Paul, however, seems to be relishing his role as a rabble-rouser, recently telling CNN that “the people of Kentucky elected me to shake things up.” His spokeswoman, Moira Bagley, said Paul believes a “bold approach” is required to tackle the debt crisis, balance the budget and reduce the size of government. But bold is one thing — his budget proposal to slash $500 billion in one year is a whole different level of thinking not shared by any other senator.

“I’ve heard members say, ‘I believe in what Rand Paul is trying to do and agree with his end goal, but I don’t like how he’s trying to get there,’” said one Senate GOP aide. “Marco Rubio is advocating principles of the people within the fringe elements but not being pigeonholed by that label.”