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Opinion
Ramesh Ponnuru

Rand Paul Can't Change Republicans

On the issues where the senator has distinctive views, his party isn't inclined to evolve.
Will Rand Paul's quixotic campaign call out the elephant in the room?

Will Rand Paul's quixotic campaign call out the elephant in the room?

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, announced on his website Tuesday morning that he's running for president. He says he's "a different kind of Republican leader," by which he means a libertarian kind. The closer he gets to the presidency, however, the less libertarian he gets. His evolution is a case study in how hard it is even for a talented politician to remake his party.

Paul argues that his concern for civil liberties, skepticism about foreign intervention and willingness to back off in the War on Drugs will win him the support of voters who have never pulled the lever for a Republican. He has spoken often about bringing more minorities and young people into the Republican tent. He hopes to rebrand his party the way Bill Clinton did when he ran, in 1992, as a "different kind of Democrat." But while Clinton had some success at remaking his party, so far Paul's party is remaking him.