It is often said that politicians start out on the left or the right and slowly move toward the middle. But where is the middle ground these days?
Rand Paul has made statements regarding gay marriage, marijuana and immigration lately which seem to have at least opened the door to questions about how truly conservative he is on these issues. But, as it turns out, he explains himself in terms that define "conservatism" differently than the George W. Bush definition. Even Karl Rove says he could see a Republican candidate in 2016 supporting gay marriage, which is quite a change of attitude for the architect of the "gay marriage" wedge issue which helped to elect his former boss.
Rand defends his stance on gay marriage from a strict constitutionalist's point of view and says the issue is one for the states.
He defends his stance on marijuana by suggesting that, though he doesn't favor legalizing it, he finds the cost of imprisoning people for minor offenses far too high and the destruction of lives by criminal conviction more devastating than the use of the drug itself.
And he finds economic utility in the illegal immigrant population which coupled with the reality of never being able to deport 12 million people, means providing a pathway to increasing the tax base without increasing taxes.
For many people these positions would have once been declared far too left of the GOP platform for any credible candidate to take unless he was trying to become clearly a Libertarian or cozy up to the progressives.
But Rand Paul has given cover to a lot of people by finding a way to articulate the populist mood of the country as consistent with the conservative world view.
It will be interesting to watch and see if his dexterity holds up to the kind of close scrutiny he will have to endure once Mitch McConnell no longer needs him and his minions for a re-election bid. Right now they both provide each other some cover and Rand hasn't missed a single opportunity to get the most out of that relationship as possible.