U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., has received harsh criticism from his base over his recent endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the fall election.
Earlier this month, Paul announced his support for Romney despite the fact that his father—Congressman Ron Paul—is still pursuing delegates. Since the endorsement, vocal Tea Party activists have accused Sen. Paul of betraying the so-called liberty movement that brought him to office.
He has also received death threats but dismissed what he calls a small group of “Internet extremists” who are preaching violence against his family.
“The people that are over the top and even making death threats on the Internet, I hope they are not serious, but they are a small number of people making a disproportionate number of the comments,” Paul told The Washington Times. “A lot of those people may not even vote or may not have voted for my father. They don’t represent the majority of the people that support what we’re fighting for.”
Paul supporters affiliated with the Tea Party in Kentucky have also stepped up to defend the Senator against the attacks while admitting their own hesitation to back his choice in Romney.
Tea Party activist Mica Sims wrote on her blog that she was surprised by the announcement, but that Paul determined Romney was worthy of the endorsement and wants to influence the larger Republican agenda.
Paul has said his endorsement of Romney puts more pressure on the GOP nominee to audit the Federal Reserve.
“Rand, as he said in his announcement, found common ground with Romney on many of Rand's principles,” says Sims. “Romney is not in any way a perfect candidate but Rand will now have Romney’s ear and will hopefully be able to influence his course of action.”
David Adams was Paul’s campaign manager in the 2010 Republican primary. He says he is surprised by the harsh backlash against Paul, but he believes it's being exaggerated in the media and has nothing to do with the so-called liberty movement.
“Anytime you get a large group of people together and they have high emotions, you’re going to have the random bad act or bad actors. I think it’s just not accurate to describe these incidents as emblematic of the movement,” he says.
Since it became a political force, the Tea Party's critics have continuously alleged the movement appeals to right-wing fringe groups who often use violent rhetoric to reinforce their political viewpoints.
In 2010, death threats were used against Democratic lawmakers during certain debates, and political observers will note the infamous “curb stomper” incident that involved a Paul campaign volunteer.
Past reports have also criticized Paul for appearing with armed militia members at Second Amendment rallies and observers may note the irony that the Senator is the focus of violent threats from his own base.
“People are upset, and anytime people get upset you’re going to have loose nuts making death threats or going over board in their criticism,” says Adams. “That’s just part of the process, and that’s what happens when somebody becomes a national figure such as Rand has.”