The real test will come when it’s a Republican president contemplating sending troops to Syria or when it’s a Republican economy that’s being goosed by the Fed’s monetary policy. I’m fairly confident that Rand Paul will raise his voice in criticism in those cases; I’m much less confident that there will be any kind of Paulista groundswell rising with him.
That might be right, but it’s also not hard to imagine how a Romney administration could create excellent conditions for the growth of the liberty movement. Romney is not very well-liked even by most of the people who will vote for him, and he is distrusted by large numbers of Republicans. If Romney is elected, he will likely govern in a fashion that Tea Partiers, small-government conservatives, and libertarians all find unacceptable. Even if most rank-and-file partisans fall in line behind Romney, many independents will not. Ron Paul consistently received some of his strongest support from independents and moderates in the primaries, and among these groups Romney’s foreign policy views are likely to be especially unpopular. If Romney ordered soldiers into Syria, as he recently suggested he might, I suspect he would face significant bipartisan resistance. Americans want nothing to do with Syria’s conflict, and they aren’t likely to become more inclined to intervene as that country continues to collapse. The influence of Paul’s ideas inside the GOP has increased significantly in part because of the blundering military adventurism of the last Republican administration, and more blunders under Romney would make the alternative offered by Rand Paul and others look that much better.