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“They tried to paint me as a drug pusher,” Paul later complained to Campaigns & Elections magazine, “but the voters weren’t buying it. I had never advocated legalization and they knew it. I had condemned the federal war on drugs.…It’s had just terrible consequences.” Paul’s campaign manager in that race, Mark Elam, even took issue with Laughlin’s criticisms of his candidate on the first Iraq war. “That was completely outrageous,” he said, stating that Paul had opposed the decision to go to war but “fully supported our effort once the war was underway.” Ron Paul won the primary and went on to be the most consistently libertarian member of Congress, representing a congressional district that voted for George W. Bush and John McCain.
As with the elder Paul, Rand Paul’s campaign raises questions beyond whether he wins or loses this election. Can libertarians work within the Republican Party? At what price comes political power? “I think a lot of people who didn’t support him in the primaries are starting to understand that my dad was right about a lot of things,” says the younger Paul. But as his dad says, Rand Paul is his own man.
W. James Antle III (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of The American Spectator.