Rand Paul: “My Goal Is To Make DeMint Look Like a Moderate”

During the last election, it seemed that just about every Republican running for office was eager to wrap themselves in the mantle of the Tea Party … but now that the election is over, it doesn’t seem that members of Congress are particularly eager to keep on carrying it:

Although dozens of Republicans sailed into office with the help of the tea-party movement last year, finding a self-identified “Tea Party Republican” on Capitol Hill is harder than you’d think.

The first meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus on Thursday attracted just four senators – out of a possible 47 GOP members – willing to describe themselves as members. The event was as notable for who wasn’t there than who was.

• Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., once a tea-party darling, has for now declined to join the caucus, whose first meeting was organized by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

• Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican whose campaign sprang from the small-government movement, has passed for now.

• Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., showed up to address the group of activists Thursday, but then hustled out of the room, ignoring reporters’ questions about whether he was in or out.

But those who did show up at the meeting seem eager to demonstrate the bona fides as Tea Party activists pressed Sen. Jim DeMint to cut at least $1.4 trillion in spending per year while Rand Paul burnished his reputation for being one of he most extreme members of the Senate:

[Sen. Rand] Paul’s approach – bold, specific and unwaveringly conservative – is exactly what the most engaged activists of the tea party have been seeking. One of the biggest applause lines at Thursday’s meeting came when staunch conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., quoted Paul as saying, “My goal is to make DeMint look like a moderate.”