It is not so much what Rand Paul said in his rebuttal to President Obama's State of the union address but rather that that such a speech was undertaken at all. Clearly Paul's address was also, and in reality more significantly, a rebuttal to Marco Rubio's rebuttal to Obama on behalf of what is now the Establishment wing of the GOP, and will most likely be, if events unfold, the Whiggish remnant.
Again, it is not what the differences between Rubio and Paul's rebuttals were that matter, it is the fact that they took place which is absolutely unprecedented, and brings into the starkest focus the irreconcilable split in the Republican ranks. The irony if course is that Rubio owes his position to the Tea Party (and to Sarah Palin in part) and that he may well end up as the candidate of the rump GOP Establishment in 2016.
It may have been thought in the silly, heady, days of the Romney euphoria that even if Romney lost a rejuvenated GOP would cruise to victory led by the charismatic Hispanic Rubio next time. As it turned out Romney was a bridge too far for the conservative rank and file who held their collective noses and trudged out to vote for the "electable" Establishment candidate.
Any indication that another such candidate in the Dole/McCain/Romney mould would be foisted on the rank and file, would lead to a massive stay at home result in 2016. Such is the rancour and distaste for the Beltway Establishment amongst the conservatives.
That Rubio is being crowned by representatives of the Establishment like Time magazine, and appears to the rank and file as endorsing some form of amnesty, has not done him any good, and Rubio might be forced to make a decision as to which camp he is going to fight from.
If the split does come, and the 2014 mid-terms may be the final straw if the Karl Rove/Barbour establishment tries to force 'electable" candidates on the Tea Party, is a new third party (e.g. The American Party as suggested by Sarah Palin's brother) electorally viable in 2016?
Possibly, but not probably. The new Republican Party lost their first election in 1856 but put in place a structure and a solid electoral College base for the next election.
A new third party would, by the very nature of its conservative support, have such a solid base in its first run with every chance of winning the South and parts of the Mid-West. After a third Democratic Party presidency there is every chance it will be "time for a change" as historically has been the norm.
Then, the new party, with no internal schisms, and a solidly, uncompromisingly conservative ticket, with Paulite libertarian elements, (perhaps some combination of Paul and Palin), could begin a new chapter in American history.
February 12th 2013,and Rand Paul's address, may well be looked on by historians as the first page in that new chapter.
Sarah Palin, as prescient as usual. discussed this possibility last year:
Later in the segment, Ms. Pemmaraju introduced a few questions chosen from those that viewers had sent in via Facebook and Twitter. The first question, from Jan Nicholson on Facebook, was whether Gov. Palin still considered a third party a possibility if ”the GOP continued to resist the new crop of commonsense conservatives.”
Oh well, Jan hit the nail on the head there in suggesting that it’s a possibility that the GOP would kind of disenfranchise or invalidate this new crop of fiscal conservatives and Independents who just want to get the economy back on the right track. Heaven forbid we see that in the next few months. Oh, yeah, there is that possibility of a third party rising, but that’s only if the GOP power players would choose to kind of co-opt this new crop of fiscal conservatives. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen