Jonathan Tobin describes the possible rivalry between Paul Ryan and Rand Paul in the coming years:
By backing Boehner’s compromise measure, Ryan is showing once again that he’s a team player who, though determined to promote reform ideas, isn’t interested in grandstanding or showing up Boehner or Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Yet if Ryan is, as many of his admirers hope, interested in running for president in 2016, this leaves him vulnerable to future attacks from Paul as a compromiser rather than a true Tea Party believer.
I have to assume that Ryan’s admirers already understood that he was vulnerable to attacks from conservatives for being a “team player” during the Bush years, to say nothing of any positions he has taken more recently. Obviously, Ryan was never a “true Tea Party believer” if that involved voting consistently for fiscal responsibility, deficit reduction, and opposition to the expansion of government programs. Throughout the 2000s, Ryan represented everything in the Bush-era Republican Party that the Tea Party was supposed to be repudiating. As it turned out, many Tea Partiers weren’t that much more interested in fiscal responsibility than Ryan was, but where they do differ is that Ryan has consistently sided with his party’s leadership every time there has been a division between the leadership and the more conservative members of the House. The legislation or policy being voted on has made no difference: Ryan has sided with the leadership, regardless of what position the leadership ended up taking.
It has not been in vain. Thanks to his habit of accommodating party leaders, Ryan is himself feted and celebrated as a party leader, and he now has a far better chance at the next presidential nomination than his qualifications should allow. The point is that Ryan has been and will continue to be good partisan “team player.” He has never tried to be anything else, and an insurgent’s role probably wouldn’t suit him very well. That has always left him vulnerable to legitimate criticism from conservatives in the party that his fiscal conservatism is a very recent and convenient development. That criticism has the virtue of being true. On any one specific issue, Ryan might be able to defend his record as a “team player” on the merits, but the overall pattern of his career in the House has been to yield and accommodate to “compromises” of fiscal conservative principles no matter who has controlled the House or the White House.