I was wading through yet another article (this one from David Freedlander at the Daily Beast) on the Republican presidential preferences of our Wall Street overlords, when I noticed this comparison between Rand Paul and George W. Bush:

Congressman Paul was certainly never a welcome figure in Fifth Avenue penthouses, and to some, Rand bears too much resemblance to Ron. And even though supporters of Paul say that he can pivot away from his father while still keeping the core group of supporters—a move similar to one George W. Bush pulled off as doubts lingered about his resemblance to his father, it may not be enough for those who had to cross a barricade of Paul picketers to get to the VIP suite at the last GOP convention.

I think we are all aware that Rand has tried to soften some of the sharp edges of his old man’s message, most notably on foreign policy (you know, not identifying himself with Iran’s fears of the U.S., or letting himself be described as anti-Israel), and also by refusing to rant for hours about monetary policy at the drop of a hat. And presumably his famous outreach to African-Americans is designed in part to avoid association with the racist newsletter entries that used to be part of the Paul-o-verse.

But I hadn’t really thought of Rand’s gradual adjustments to the Liberty Cause as being comparable to the exceptionally successful W. makeover in the 90s, which I described here last year:

The man systematically got rid of every association with Eastern Establishment Republicanism that bedeviled Poppy, dumping Episcopalianism for evangelicalism, sporting a genuine Texas accent, and trading class-based noblesse oblige for church-based “compassionate conservatism.” By the time he ran for president in 2000, he had already been dubbed “the ideological heir to Ronald Reagan” by Robert Novak, and obtained the support of the entire conservative movement from sea to shining sea.

It’s hard to imagine Rand Paul pulling off this sort of parricidal coup, particularly since these days there is no figure like Robert Novak around to signal a consensus “movement” blessing on a suspected heretic. It might require an actual public admonishment from Ron Paul to make Rand Paul kosher, so to speak.

The whole subject is also a reminder of the exceptionally tough challenge facing Wall Street’s current favorite, Jeb Bush, if he decides to take their money and run. How does he simultaneously distinguish himself from his father and from his brother, without casting some doubt on his credentials as a “family values” man? “Bush 3.0” doesn’t sound like a very compelling signature, and “Vote for the smart one” or “Vote for the REALLY conservative Bush” wouldn’t look too good on bumper stickers. I honestly don’t know how he pulls it off, unless he changes names.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.