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Ron Paul Helped Inspire the Tea Party Movement, and Now It Could Take Him Down

Facing three GOP opponents affiliated with the Tea Party movement in the primaries, Paul is concerned that building anti-Washington sentiment could take him out as well.

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So why are Tea Partiers behind the son and not the father? After all, their views are nearly identical. The answer may simply be that Rand Paul is a new face on the political landscape, whereas Ron Paul -- although on the definite fringe of the GOP -- is nevertheless an incumbent. That anti-incumbent sentiment, added to the Tea Party's set goal of working like a real political party to influence elections, has probably moved Paul's three challengers to start their campaigns.

One of Paul's Tea Party opponents, John Gay, a school business administrator, told the Dallas Morning News: "The word I keep hearing is 'ineffective.' This district is not really being represented as it could be."

Perhaps one way in which Paul may be seen as ineffective by his constituents and opponents is the fact that he votes no on essentially any spending measure, and he is consistent, potentially to a fault. He even went as far as voting against federal disaster recovery aid for his own district after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

But as Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent writes, "Almost nothing that Paul does cuts against the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement that is mentioned most in the press....some of it does cut against the priorities of national security conservatives and partisan Republicans."

Indeed, it seems as though the Tea Party has recognized the growing appeal of libertarian ideals among right-wing voters, and has co-opted that rhetoric to diffuse its own far more right-wing message. While it may tout libertarian-style beliefs as its rousing cause, the actual unifying theme seems to be anti-Obama, with some anti-immigrant sprinkled in along with the parodoxical meld of anti-unionism and anti-big business.

Due to this convoluted platform, the Tea Party continues to be a much more fringe group than the Ron Paul Revolution. Further aiding Paul are not only the advantages of longtime incumbency, but his sustained ability to raise cash. He has more than $1.9 million at the ready, while his opponents don't have more than a few thousand dollars each, according to the Morning News . And because Ron Paul is Ron Paul -- and not Dede Scozzafava -- it's unlikely he'd face a Bill Owens-style ousting such as the one bolstered by Palin and the Tea Party in upstate New York last November, which ultimately helped a Democrat win a historically Republican seat.

Even so, because Ron Paul knows a lot about the machinations -- and power -- behind populist movements, he told supporters in an email last month that he'd have to work hard to ensure that the anti-Washington sentiment, which he calls "a good thing," does not take him out as well.

Daniela Perdomo is a staff writer and editor of the Progressive Wire and Investigations at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter . Write her at danielaalternet [at] gmail [dot] com.