Timothy Stanley, a British historian and author of the quite good bio of Patrick Buchanan, The Crusader: The Life and Tumultous Times of Pat Buchanan, that I reviewed for Reason in our June 2012 issue, is over at CNN analyzing Hillary Clinton's fight with Senate Republicans yesterday, and concludes:

the most impressive performance by far was from Rand Paul. He delivered a cool, withering statement that climaxed in this devastating paragraph (and you have to watch it to get the full effect): "I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility. I think ultimately with your leaving that you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that. Had I been president and found you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador (Christopher) Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable."

This performance might be -- and should be -- remembered well by the Republican base when the primary campaign of 2016 starts. Ever since the last president election, Rand Paul hasn't set a foot wrong. From his bridge-building visit to Israel to his opposition to the fiscal cliff deal, he seems well placed to become the tea party candidate.

And what an unusually satisfying choice Clinton vs. Paul would be.

It would be a genuine contest between big government liberalism and small government conservatism: Clinton's internationalism and support for welfare programs vs. Paul's anti-interventionism and opposition to pork.

The question of who could win such an unusual contest is difficult to answer. The Paul family has a tradition of winning votes from Democrats, but Clinton's new respectability could also pull votes away from the Republicans. One Kentucky poll found that in a head-to-head contest, she'd even beat Rand in his home state of Kentucky.

It would be a campaign that any elections scholar would relish.

I blogged on Paul v. Clinton yesterday, with video of the duel.