And despite a huge amount of preparation, his 2016 campaign was an utter disaster.
Harold Macmillan's apocryphal quote about "events, my dear boy, events" comes to mind. The rise of the Islamic State made non-interventionism far less popular among Republican voters, even though if we hadn't invaded Iraq, the Islamic State would not exist.
But ultimately, it was Paul himself who crippled his emerging movement. He consciously cozied up to the Establishment so as to make himself more "electable" than his father. He compromised his anti-interventionist message, even though that was what most distinguished him from other Republicans. And worst of all, he reversed course on immigration, abandoning his previous opposition to birthright citizenship and instead talking up an Amnesty/Immigration Surge. Though he voted against the Gang of Eight, his messaging was fatally compromised.
Paul also began promoting himself as a "Detroit Republican" who could win over minority voters with the old Jack Kemp approach of awkward pandering and wonkish economic plans. It didn't work in the 1990's and it is not going to work now
There also seems to be a split among libertarians themselves. Indeed, the word "libertarian" doesn't seem to mean much now. Among young left-libertarians, the defining issues are gay marriage and supporting mass immigration. No one is opposing state power if the government is being used to enforce civil rights statutes for example. The entire movement, if it can be called that, is like a giant exercise in counter-signaling against white, working class voters. Principles like freedom of association are all but forgotten.
But even as the newly conventional Republican Rand Paul lost many of those young activists, his PC posturing and immigration flip flops cost him any populist credentials. And he ended the 2016 campaign in full cuck mode, saying his number one enemy was... Donald Trump. He might as well be Jeb Bush.
What a waste. He could have a revolutionary figure. But now, Rand just seems sad. And I get the feeling many of those who were ready to "Stand With Rand" are now stumping for Trump.
Well, game over.