Could Ron Paul 2012 Pave the Way for Rand Paul 2016 or 2020?

Libertarian's 2012 gains could pave the way for a future run by his U.S. senator son.

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[Who's in and who's out: a slide show of GOP 2012 primary candidates.]

Of course, any talk about 2016, or any future presidential race, is pure speculation at this point. No one knows if the economy will still be in the doldrums, and no one knows what the state of the national debt and deficit will be between now and then. And, of course, no one knows whether or not President Obama will be re-elected.

But David Keating, executive director of Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative political action committee that has been involved with the Tea Party, says Rand Paul has another challenge that starts now, one Keating says will distinguish him from how his father is sometimes viewed: "If he's interested in running for president someday, he's going to have to prove himself to be not only a principled legislator, but an effective legislator."

Ron Paul was the intellectual father of the Tea Party, but Rand Paul rode the movement's wave to a 2010 Kentucky victory. If the pendulum of the political climate continues to swing toward an anti-government-spending mood, and if the younger Paul is seen as a successful senator, he could ride that wave even farther.

  • Read: Ron Paul takes a bow in New Hampshire.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP primary candidates.
  • Read: Is Ron Paul a fringe candidate?