What the press is missing, however, is the degree to which Gingrich, Santorum and their staffs have acted in ways that the Paul camp would justifiably perceive as dismissive and rude. When I asked Brabender for reaction to the accusation that he was practicing the art of distraction, he e-mailed, “It sounds like something the Romney campaign told the Paul campaign to say.” It is precisely this sort of denigration — that Paul and his staff are unable to think on their own or advance their own interests — that has fueled Paul’s desire to skewer Santorum. The source close to the Paul camp responded, “Once again demonstrates the total lack of respect for Ron Paul, his supporters, and his campaign team held by Santorum and his top advisor. When you build coalitions and treat your fellow Republicans the Santorum-Brabender way you end up losing in the general by double digits in the swing states like Pennsylvania.” You get the picture now?The future of the conservative movement lies in small-L libertarianism, not in the old neocon cold warriors who tend to dominate talk radio and the rightward blogosphere and are manifested in Santorum and Gingrich. While the bulk of Paul's views may still be outside of the mainstream (I think a lot of people would be eager to join a Ron Paul-like movement if it weren't for Ron Paul), go to any tea party meeting and they're not talking about contraception; they're talking about constitutional principles and liberty.
It has been going on for some time now. Santorum publicly called Paul “disgusting.” Gingrich has been telling others to get out of the race for months. In the debate, an eye-rolling Santorum couldn’t contain his disdain for Paul, who returned the favor with blow after blow to Santorum’s self-image of a “courageous” conservative warrior (wasn’t that self-definition by Santorum an unintentional moment of Newt-like ego?) .
I believe some in the Republican Party understand this. Others who don't are destined to go the way of the Whigs -- or the party itself will.