Transcending the two worlds can be tricky: While Paul voted with Cruz on the effort to defund the health care law -- pre-empting future primary attacks from the right -- he also said publicly over the summer that he thought shutting the government down was "a dumb idea." Privately, he complained during the shutdown that the effort was futile and was damaging the party.
Still, he is clearly the beneficiary of the comparison with Cruz: Establishment Republicans are lining up to heap praise on Paul, using words like "grown"' and "matured" to describe him and the role he played during the shutdown.
"This ordeal showed a side of Rand that I thought was politically very smart in terms of his tone and trying to distance himself from a strategy that clearly didn't play well for us," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview.
The standoff over health care and the shutdown also highlighted the personal differences between the two men and how they are viewed within the Senate: Paul is more easygoing and speaks casually as he makes his points with fellow senators. Cruz, his colleagues complain, often seems like he is lecturing them -- or, as one put it, "still on Hannity's show." While Paul was overheard on a hot mike plotting strategy with McConnell, the Senate minority leader, Cruz was receiving tongue-lashings from his Republican colleagues at private senators-only luncheons. Paul mixes with a range of senators at the weekly Republican luncheons; Cruz tends to stick close to his fellow hard-liner Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
Nowhere is the competition between the two men more obvious than in the crucial state of Iowa, where Paul was the most sought-after speaker in the state this year in the aftermath of his filibuster over the use of drone strikes, but where Cruz is surging after his starring role in the shutdown battle. He was the headline speaker at the Iowa Republican Party dinner late last month.
"Both of them are appealing to the same base, but there is no doubt that Cruz is the one who now has got a full head of steam," said Bob Vander Plaats, who leads an Iowa Christian conservative group.
Supporters of Paul are better organized, however, and building on Ron Paul's campaign, they have essentially taken over the levers of the Iowa Republican Party, earning the nickname "Paulistinians" in the state's Republican circles. They tend to be libertarian-leaning and as passionate about limiting U.S. interventionism overseas as they are about domestic affairs.
But Paul is also determined to appeal among social conservatives now drawn to Cruz.
Both appeared at a gathering of pastors in Des Moines this summer and spoke at the Family Research Council's Values Voter summit this month in Washington. The day before that summit, they addressed a private meeting of a few dozen of the country's leading Christian conservatives. Attendees said that Cruz, who was joined at the closed-door meeting by his pastor father, had the more compelling presence, but that Paul's wife, Kelley, impressed the group by "talking in our kind of language," as one participant put it.
Paul clearly has more to prove than Cruz among evangelicals, who remember his father's libertarianism and are suspicious of his positions, like his support for reducing sentences on drug users and allowing the states to decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I'd want clarification on those issues because it is a concern," said Tamara Scott, the Iowa national Republican committeewoman, who has spent time with both men.
Paul and his advisers are acutely aware of such unease and are taking steps to address it. Most telling, perhaps was an exchange at the end of a pastors' luncheon in May in Cedar Rapids, convened by David Lane, a Christian conservative organizer.
"One of the pastors said to Rand, 'We've beat all around this, I don't want to beat all around this anymore, let's be real specific: Would you define yourself as born again?'" Lane recalled. "He said, 'I'm born again.'"
Still, Lane underscored the advantage Cruz has with some evangelicals. Asked about the Texas senator's faith, he responded, "Cruz is obviously born again and goes to First Baptist Houston."
(c) 2013 Oahu Publications Inc.
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