I frankly think [Rand] Paul is going to go a lot farther than people realize.
--Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.
Count me among them. Paul shows every sign of a first-rate backbencher, but none of the discipline required of a genuine presidential contender.
I shouldn't be surprised. Paul is a backbencher. On the other hand he's possessed of more charisma and of a kind of carefree daring than your average freshman senator--the latter of which is probably his problem. He hasn't been on the central stage long enough to have become polished in the ways of national presentation, and he seems to naively believe that the virtues of ideology will compensate for any lack of professional demeanor (by which I mean, holding one's tongue).
Barack Obama was also a freshman senator possessed of considerable charisma. Daring, however, he kept in check. This disaffected many on the rebellious left, but the left wasn't his target audience--the middle was. Thus Obama opposed an individual mandate in healthcare reform and advocated a beefier presence in Afghanistan. This was political maturity talking, notwithstanding his freshman status. And ideology he recognized for what it was and will always be: an intellectual straitjacket.
Sen. Obama's chief virtues: he accepted the possibility that he wasn't always right, and, were anything to get done in Washington, he knew that compromises against virtue were inevitable. Sen. Paul breezily sees the world from one-dimensional views--his; and that's a carefree daring that, rather than expand his base, will merely narrow it.