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Their [GOP] job is not to minimize liberty lost, but to maximize liberty —Sen. Rand Paul

The tea party and especially Sen. Rand Paul won big over the weekend during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but that is not stopping establishment GOP politicians like Sen. Mitch McConnell from “targeting them,” according to the New York Times’ Carl Hulse.

Top congressional Republicans are targeting conservative activist groups with a goal of undermining their credibility, according to Hulse. “The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.”

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Hulse quoted McConnell as saying.

The straw poll at last week's CPAC illustrated that tea party favorites are winning, according to the National Review's Tim Cavanaugh.

Sen. Rand Paul won with 31 percent of the vote, Sen. Ted Cruz came in second with 11 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in third with 9 percent.

Cavanaugh writes that the straw poll illustrates a change in the direction of the party, citing poor performances by former “power hitters” like Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan.

The libertarian wave continued throughout the conference, which, according to Cavanaugh, “followed a pattern that has characterized GOP events since at least 2008: When the small-government zealots are not around, you can hear a pin drop. When a member of the Paul family shows up, there’s so much energy in the place it almost seems like Republicans can win an election.”

As the libertarian wave rolled on, so did the ascendancy of Rand Paul, according to the American Conservative’s Jonathan Coppage.

Paul’s message against the “progressive majoritarianism,” the security state’s overreaching and broad powers and his rejection of the “gradualist’s insistence” that change cannot be had resonated particularly well with his audience, according to Coppage.

"Paul packed in the biggest crowds of the conference by far, and walked off to the adoring cries of his supporters," Coppage continued, "who then launched him once again to the top of CPAC’s straw poll."

However, Paul's big win at CPAC may not be enough to give his faction the edge over McConnell's, according to Politico's James Hohmann.

"Paul showed again that the conference – filled with young, libertarian leaning Republicans – is his home field and then some," Hohmann wrote. "Take the results for what they are; the crowd here is a slice of the GOP base, not representative of it. But it does offer one indication of who’s exciting conservatives as 2016 speculation heats up."

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com. You can reach him at: