Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning GOP candidate for Kentucky's senate seat, suffered a baptism of fire on his way to national prominence, says Robert Costa at the National Review. Not because of a sex scandal or YouTube spat, but because of his "own textbook libertarianism" — particularly a highly contentious remark about the regulatory implications of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now that the furor has died down, Paul is concentrating on his campaign — and ways in which he might energize the Republican Party if he wins in November. Paul's big aspiration at the moment is to build a "nucleus" of Senate conservatives who share his constitutionalist core beliefs — a "tea party caucus," as he describes it. Here's an extract from the interview:

"I think I will be part of a nucleus with Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, who are unafraid to stand up,” Paul says. “If we get another loud voice in there, like Mike Lee from Utah or Sharron Angle from Nevada, there will be a new nucleus. . . . Term limits, a balanced-budget amendment, having bills point to where they are enumerated in the Constitution — those issues resonate with the tea party. I know Republicans are trying to get something going, and I don’t know their list, but if I had a contract with America, these things would be in it. These are not radical ideas — they are reform-minded, good-government ideas.

Read the entire article at the National Review.