In the meantime, the family’s dreams for Rand have created something else: A hostage. Terrified Republican leaders worry that Ron Paul will take his rowdy mix of Republicans and independents and run a spoiler third party campaign he hasn’t quite ruled out. Ron Paul, they are making clear, has nothing to lose – but his son’s career.

“The question of Rand’s future hangs over the 2012 race in a real way,” said John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager, Steve Schmidt.“If [Ron Paul] were to leave the GOP it would have a crushing effect on his son’s political career in the Republican Party and would be ruinous to any chance of a serious national campaign under the Republican banner.”

And while Ron Paul hasn’t ruled out a third party bid, his aides insist it won’t happen. Inside the Paul clan, Rand’s generation is rising, and the dream is a new kind of Paul campaign: One that’s dead serious, a tick or two closer to the mainstream, and one that wins.