The Tea Party Goes After Ron Paul

February 08, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

His son Rand’s campaign for Senate in Kentucky is going better than anyone could have expected — every Kentuckian I met at the National Tea Party Convention backed him — but Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is drawing three primary opponents for his own re-election bid. Ironically, all three are from the Tea Party movement, which, as reporter Tom Benning points out, would be hard to imagine without the energy stirred up by Paul’s 2008 presidential bid.

Tea Party associations aside, many of the challengers’ criticisms echo concerns of Paul’s past opponents: that he is too focused on his national ambitions; that his views are too extreme; that he doesn’t support the wars in Iraqand Afghanistan; that he votes “no” on everything, including federal aid for his district after Hurricane Ike.

“The word I keep hearing is ‘ineffective,’ ” said [challenger John] Gay, a school business administrator. “This district is not really being represented as it could be.”

The criticism is, to say the least, ironic. Almost nothing that Paul does cuts against the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement that is mentioned most in the press: responsible spending and adherence to the Constitution. But some of it does cut against the priorities of national security conservatives and partisan Republicans.

There is one thing Paul does that might backfire. While Paul votes against basically all spending bills, he notoriously gets earmark requests into those bills, so that local projects survive when other members vote those bills through. That barely dinged Paul in 2008, but it may become an issue now.