Rand Paul has apparently won the Republican party nomination for U.S. Senator from Kentucky by a wide margin tonight. This was a primary race that divided the state and national party organizations. The junior Senator and Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, endorsed Paul's opponent, while the outgoing incumbent, Jim Bunning, endorsed Paul. Sarah Palin spoke on Paul's behalf, while Dick Cheney spoke against him.
What does this tell us about the relative power of personalities within the Republican camp? Does it prove that Palin has more clout than Cheney? I'd withhold judgment of her influence until the Arizona primary, when we'll see whether she can save John McCain from the same tide that lifted Paul to victory. As for Cheney, I wouldn't dismiss him as quickly as I'd dismiss national security as an issue for the 2010 campaigns. The former veep opposed Paul because the son shares the father's anti-interventionist attitude in foreign policy, but I don't think that factored in the primary. More locally, some see the vote as a rebuke to McConnell and a warning that he might lose his leadership post (be it Minority or Majority) in the next Congress. I'd also question the extent to which tonight's a triumph for Ron Paul's legacy. Just as I think the Paul position on war didn't hurt Rand, I don't think it necessarily helped him. Foreign policy simply won't matter unless terrorists attack successfully again or it can be tied to economics, in which case the big issue won't be Iraq or Afghanistan but Greece and Spain and whether the U.S. should contribute to bailing them out. Rand's win is still a selective endorsement at best for the complete Ron Paul package.
Young Paul calls his triumph a victory for the Tea Parties, but even if many TPs agree with him, they should think twice about one thing. They dislike "career politicians" and expect Rand Paul to eliminate them from American life by voting for term limits. They've rallied to Rand because he's never held or run for office before, but think of the one obvious fact about this person. How much better than the politics of career politicians is dynastic politics or the politics of celebrity and name recognition? On that level, tonight has shown us nothing new.