On the afternoon of Dec. 16, 2009, the 236th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Rand Paul left the office of his small ophthalmology practice in Bowling Green and drove 30 miles to Russellville, Ky. In an election year without the Tea Party movement, Rand Paul’s campaign to become Kentucky’s next U.S. senator would be just as quixotic as the bid his father, Ron Paul, made for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. The younger Paul has never before run for political office, and he shares many of his father’s unorthodox views, including a desire to abolish both the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education. Yet, today he would address Kentucky’s Logan County Republicans as the race’s front-runner.
At the Republican Party headquarters in Russellville, Paul took the podium. Dimpled and handsome, 47 years old, with boyishly tousled salt-and-pepper hair, he surveyed the audience, a crowd of mostly retirement-age GOP stalwarts. Then, in a casual and articulate drawl, Paul committed an act of heresy that would have once doomed any Kentucky Republican: He attacked the state’s senior senator, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell. The oratory opened with a display of subtle rhetorical agility worthy of Mark Antony.