Among the freshman class of Tea Party candidates, few carry the star power of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., but Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., is certainly being billed as a chief rival to the Bowling Green ophthalmologist.
At times, it seems Rubio has tried to marginalize Paul.
Rubio once casually referred to Paul’s tea party caucus as a “little club.” And Rubio circulated his Israel letter earlier this month knowing that Paul opposed all foreign aid and likely would not sign. The Florida senator also limited it to a small group — the 13 Republican freshmen — a decision that painted Paul as out of touch on the issue.
However, the two downplayed any talk of a rivalry, saying they get along well personally and that the GOP provides plenty of room for diverse approaches and opinions.
“We’re a big party, man. There’s a variety of views in our party on a bunch of issues. The Republican Party’s a big tent,” Rubio told POLITICO in an interview at the Capitol. “There’s gonna be divergence of opinion on different issues — that’s normal but not by design. It’s just what we believe in.”
Paul said he wasn’t bothered by Rubio passing on the tea party caucus, describing their relationship as “cordial.”
Aside from the Senate 90210 speculation, what’s interesting about the piece is how Paul and Rubio have taken different paths in marking out their territory.
Rubio is jockeying to be the insider whereas Paul—like his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tx.—remains an outsider who the activists adore but the mainstream GOP still keeps at a distance. At times, one could argue Paul’s behavior flirts with a caricature of Tea Party stereotypes.