I really really want to like Rand Paul in Kentucky. I want to see him find a way to mediate basic libertarian ideas and appeals to social conservatives. But he isn’t doing it. Hopefully, the worst of his gaffefest is over — but my verdict remains: A Republican, in 2010, in Kentucky, ought to be leading his Democratic opponent by much more than eight points.
And, a Republican, in California, with a realistic shot at defeating Barbara Boxer, ought to be leading in the polls. Instead, he’s losing the more-conservative-than-thou game and getting totally swamped by the private fortune of a vanity candidate with little political experience:
Come on, social conservatives. It’s true that Campbell is not ideologically pure; he’s pro-choice and doesn’t have any particular hatred for teh gheys. But you’d seriously prefer to give Boxer a fourth term rather than give a moderate Republican any space in the Senate? You can pressure Campbell once he’s in — but Boxer will just laugh at you, the way she laughs at Fiorina.
The problem in both Kentucky and California is that social conservatives want to have it their way and only their way and they no longer have any appetite for country-club Republicans like Campbell or libertarian thinkers like Paul. If ideological purity is more valuable to them than actually electing Republicans to office, they are consigning themselves to eventually becoming a permanent minority party.