RAND PAUL STILL SEES THE ROAD TO HITLER…. The AP’s David Espo had a good story yesterday, noting the ways in which Rand Paul (R), the extremist Senate candidate in Kentucky, is conflicted. On the one hand, he really wants to tell voters about his sincere-but-radical political beliefs. On the other, Paul, a right-wing ophthalmologist with no background in government or public policy, actually wants to win. He can either honestly share his beliefs and lose, or water his extremism down and stand a reasonably strong chance of winning.

But despite these pressures, Rand Paul often can’t help himself. The New York Press reports on the Kentuckian’s recent fundraising visit to NYC.

Tonight, when Paul finally strides up and takes the microphone in the front of the room, he seems relaxed and speaks to the crowd in a soft and steady Southern accent. “People say, ‘Oh those Tea Party people, they’re angry.’ I say: ‘No, they’re concerned and they’re worried.’ They’re worried that we could destroy the currency by adding such a massive debt.” Paul then invoked the Nazis: “In Germany it led to Hitler.”

In the same soothing country doctor drawl, Paul begins to make the kind of argument that’s caused some political commentators to question his sanity. But this time it isn’t about liquidating the Federal Reserve, vanquishing the Department of Labor or new limits on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — all topics Paul has argued for in the past. Instead, Paul warns that deficit spending will lead to the same kind of chaos that allowed Hitler to rise to power.

“That can happen in a civilized country,” Paul says. He continues on, saying that in order to avoid a similar fate we must stop “spending and spending” and create an alternative future.

Spencer Wilking added that Paul was rewarded with an assembled crowd that “shrieks with delight” in response to such nonsense.

As a substantive matter, Rand Paul is spewing idiocy. Our debt, created by Paul’s Republican friends, is not destroying the currency and won’t lead to American fascism. The very idea is so blisteringly stupid it’s hard to believe anyone arguing this publicly could ever be taken seriously again.

And therein lies the real problem. Paul’s Hitler rhetoric is offensive and disturbing, but it’s also the kind of rhetoric that would have permanently discredited a Senate candidate up until fairly recently. Such radicalism was simply considered beyond the pale of what’s acceptable in the American political mainstream.

Rand Paul, however, remains the frontrunner in Kentucky, no matter how crazy he is.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.