There are two prime movers in the Republican Party at the moment. The two men have many similarities — both are 50 years old, and both are relative newcomers to statewide elected office — but they have come to represent the two distinct paths laid before Republicans in the run-up to the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 presidential election.
Down one path is Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), the man who authored the single most memorable moment of the first eight months of 2013 in Republican politics — a nearly 13-hour filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. Paul’s talkathon, which focused on his opposition to the use of drones against American citizens, was amazing primarily because of how “establishment” Republicans such as Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and John Cornyn (Tex.) reacted to it — rushing to the floor to show support for Paul.
Down the other path is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the blue-state chief executive cruising to a second term this fall with a message that vacillates between brashness and bullying — with a pinch of bipartisanship thrown in for good measure. Christie laid down his marker for where the party needs to go at last week’s Republican National Committee gathering in Boston, delivering a stern warning to his side. “If we don’t win, we don’t govern,” Christie said. “And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout to the wind. And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”