Benton indicates the younger Paul is not waiting in the wings, biding his time for a presidential run. But like his father, Benton says, Rand Paul cares deeply about fighting for what he believes can fix the nation's problems. "Rand is going to make sure, whether it's in 2012, 2016, or 2020, that he is helping to provide leadership both in Kentucky and across the country in the United States Senate … to help right our ship and do the right things," Benton says. "That could be in several different roles, and he would never close the door to that being a candidate for president himself."
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.