But there were a great many conservatives, including many whose views on national security and terrorism more closely hew to the Bushian than the Paulite, greatly excited by the senator’s marathon sermon on liberty, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. …

This is a reminder that the tea-party tendency that helped carry Senator Paul to office is at least as much about seeking alternatives to the Republican establishment as resistance to Democratic statism. Senator Ted Cruz read a number of tweets on the Senate floor, which was a welcome nod to the 21st century, but he was politic in his selection of them: The villains of that particular discourse were not so much President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder as Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who was ruthlessly mocked, Senator Lindsey Graham, and, above all, Senator John McCain. The relationship between the conservative movement and the Republican party ensures that the GOP ranks are almost always at least partly in revolt, and the dissident element has found its new champions in the persons of Senator Paul, Senator Cruz, and Senator Toomey. Nobody has ever gained by underestimating Mitch McConnell, but the minority leader should be watching his back.

The Rand Paul for President movement is of course already under way, and I wish it weren’t. … An incumbent senator enjoys a measure of political safety, and he is free to challenge orthodoxies and push envelopes, which is precisely where Senator Paul is most valuable. A presidential candidate has less room to maneuver.