The strangest candidate of them all

THE STRANGEST CANDIDATE OF THEM ALL…. The 2010 election season features quite a cast of characters, but there’s probably no one quite like Rand Paul, the right-wing ophthalmologist who easily won the Republican nomination in Kentucky’s Senate race yesterday.

If you haven’t followed Paul — whose father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has a cult following that’s helped the son’s campaign — it’s a little tough to know where to start. To capture the true nuttiness of Rand Paul’s ideology would take a while. When he denounced the Americans with Disabilities Act over the weekend, for example, for not being “fair to the business owner,” it barely raised any eyebrows. Sure, it’s a pretty extreme position for American politics, but Paul takes so many strange stances — eliminate the Department of Education, eliminate corporate income taxes, etc. — it was hardly worth getting excited about.

I’ve seen others characterize Paul as a hard-line libertarian, but that’s not quite right, either. He clearly hates government intervention in most areas, but Paul has no problem with the government using its power to restrict gay rights, and he would like to sponsor legislation “restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade,” which is both nutty and unconstitutional. For that matter, Paul’s bizarre rhetoric on immigration policy also puts a lot of distance between him and the libertarian line.

But Josh Marshall looks beyond ideology and policy, and considered whether Rand Paul is, well, kind of a jerk.

So is Rand Paul, on a personal level, just a deeply unlikeable guy? One of the weird things about his acceptance speech last night was that he held it at the local country club — to what looked uncannily like a members-only crowd. This morning he defended the venue by saying that Tiger Woods has made golf a lot more popular. More to the point, news came out overnight that Paul allegedly refused to take Trey Grayson’s concession phone call last night.

I think this last charge requires a little caution. The one making the charge is Grayson’s campaign manager, who obviously is far from a neutral observer. And Paul’s campaign manager says it wasn’t a sleight. He was just “in transit and could not take the call.” So who knows?

But I am getting the impression that Paul — aside from just being very unlikeable in personal terms — may be a much more divisive figure than one might from any Tea Party candidate who snatches away a nomination from an establishment party figure…. I get the sense there’s a whole issue of personality (and messianism) that’s going to be in play in that race beyond quite apart from ideology narrowly construed.

Kevin Drum added, “That’s what I like to hear: I think it would be great if the tea party cranks lost big in November just because they’re a bunch of stubborn, unlikeable, messianic crackpots.”

Update: Yglesias’ thoughts on Paul are worthwhile, too: “The rise of Rand Paul and his securing the GOP nomination for the Kentucky Senate seat is one of the things that will spark divergent reactions in DSCC headquarters and in the minds of responsible liberals. By nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly taken what should be a hopeless Senate race and turned it into something Democrats can win. At the same time, by nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly raised the odds that a lunatic will represent Kentucky in the United States Senate.”