“He’s moderating on most of them, not taking a real clear stance on a number of them,” said Ivers. “The strategy of sending a blended message is one that has risk.”

That was never an issue for Ron Paul, whose uncompromising ways and willingness to operate on the margins relegated him to the sidelines of national politics. Even at the height of his national influence and popularity in 2012, the Texas congressman proved unable to win the popular vote in a single state and never seriously contended for the GOP nomination in several tries.

Rand Paul, by contrast, won statewide office in his first try and has established himself as a viable presidential candidate with a talent for taking the movement’s liberty message to a broader audience.