Last night at Ten Miles Square, we published a Bloomberg column by conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru that made an intriguing suggestion: Rand Paul might turn out to be the rare failed Republican candidate who could actually add significant value to a GOP ticket in 2016 in the second position. The reasoning is pretty obvious: Paul would likely reduce the vote siphoned off by the Libertarian Party, which could matter a great deal in a very close race or in very close states.

But Ramesh’s piece got me thinking about something a bit different: the peace of mind orthodox Republicans could derive from popularizing the idea of Paul as a Veep under somebody else, thus reducing his viability as a candidate for the top of the ticket.

In any event, for Ponnuru’s scenario to play out, other Republicans would have to restrain themselves a bit from demonizing Paul during the primaries. You know, you wouldn’t want to label your future vice-presidential candidate as an Enemy of Israel, or give too much play to his old man’s racist newsletters. On the other hand, pulling one’s punches against Paul might increase the odds of him actually getting the nomination. I’m probably not the only one mystified by the disinclination of his 2010 Senate primary opponents to spend the entire contest dwelling on such topics as Ron Paul’s emphathy for that victim of American imperialism, Mohammad Mossadegh. I’m not sure Republicans will make the same mistake if Paul starts surging in the polls or wins in Iowa and/or New Hampshire.

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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.