TAMPA, Fla.—Rand Paul risks alienating his father’s base as he tries to expand his own.
The Kentucky senator, who speaks at the Republican convention Wednesday night, has a younger face and a softer edge, but his name does not guarantee the loyalty of Ron Paul’s most passionate supporters.
With buzz around a potential run for president in 2016, Ron Paul’s son plans to make the case to delegates that it is better for the movement to work with the GOP establishment rather than from the rebellious fringe. But convincing a libertarian movement that puts a premium on purity to play in the big tent of a major party is a big ask.
Among some supporters of the elder Paul, there are doubts about whether Rand Paul is up to the task of carrying his father’s torch.
Many Ron Paul supporters are still upset that Rand endorsed Romney in June during a Fox News appearance while his father was still technically a candidate. In fact, Ron Paul is being denied a speaking slot this week because he refuses to endorse or release his delegates to Romney. During the primaries, Rand always said he planned to support whoever won the Republican nomination whenever asked if his father would consider a third-party candidacy.
That doesn’t go over well with some of Ron Paul’s most fervent supporters.
“I was kind of on thin ice with Rand, and then he went and endorsed Romney. And I said, ‘Dude, that’s it! We’re done now,’” said Nick Tanzillo, 27, who flew here from Boston for a Paul rally on Sunday. “He didn’t need to do it when he did. It really cracked the liberty movement. You’ve got the hardcore Ron supporters saying, ‘What are you doing to us?’”
“It looks like he’s pandering to the party,” added 30-year-old Marshall Soell from San Antonio.”
Ron Paul, 77, is retiring after 24 years in the House. Rand Paul, 49, did something his father never had in 2010 when he won statewide office after upsetting a GOP establishment favorite in the Republican primary. He’s begun raising his national profile, delivered the official Republican Saturday radio address this weekend, has become increasingly close with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and now plans to deliver a primetime address at the national convention. Ron Paul is leaving Tampa Tuesday night, so he will not be at the convention site to watch his son speak.
In separate interviews with POLITICO, both father and son played down their divergent tactics at the convention here.
Asked whether his son can carry his torch, the elder Paul said: “Time will tell. Nobody has a torch that they give to somebody else. I don’t have a torch. Everybody has to own their own way. He’ll do well.”
Rand Paul pushed back at suggestions that he may be alienating some of his father’s supporters. And he argued that the GOP platform is a “very libertarian, conservative document.”
“One out of 1,000 will be unhappy,” Rand Paul said of his father’s supporters. “But the vast majority come up to me and are complimentary and are very supportive.”
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