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Will tea party darling Rand Paul's Libertarian view of Civil Rights Act, global warming doom his candidacy?

May 20, 2010 |  8:45 am

Rand Paul was the overwhelming winner in Tuesday's Kentucky election, whipping Establishment candidate Trey Grayson among Republican primary voters. In his victory speech, Paul said he came bearing a message from the tea party: "We've come to take our government back."

But Paul, the 47-year-old son of Texas Republican and presidential hopeful Ron Paul, holds Libertarian views similar to his father's, which Republican strategists privately fear could hurt his chances in November.

There was a hint of this ideological purity Tuesday night. The victory speech is widely used as an opportunity for a newly anointed candidate to appeal to the general electorate. And Paul did some of that -- campaigning against a broken Washington and a mountain of debt that is strangling the nation's future. Good talking points, with wide appeal among a broad range of voters.

But he also chose that moment to criticize President Obama for having gone to Copenhagen to attend a global warming conference, saying his presence was an apology for the Industrial Revolution and gave credence to dictators like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez who opposed capitalism. Take a look.

Then, as my deft colleague Jimmy Orr noticed Wednesday, Paul was forced on the defensive about his decision to hold his victory celebration at a private country club, explaining that Tiger Woods had make golf more democratic and less a symbol of exclusivity and wealth. That tape is here.

Now comes a dust-up over Rand Paul's remarks to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow over the Civil Rights Act. Like his father, Rand Paul is clear that he opposes discrimination and....

...racism and  thinks "it was a stain on the history of America" that segregation was allowed to flourish for more than 100 years after the North won the Civil War.

But, like his father, Kentucky's new Republican Senate candidate thinks the federal government, though standing against racism, segregation and bias, should not impose restrictions on private businesses.

"We tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires," he said. The inference: If a restaurant wants to ban blacks or gays or others, it's a bad business decision, not a concern of the government. Watch here.

In my view, Rand Paul is not a racist, as he has made clear repeatedly. But he is a Libertarian, a political philosophy that holds government should never infringe on the rights of individuals.

Which may be why Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator, backed the other horse.

-- Johanna Neuman

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