During his presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was an easy target for establishment Republicans to ridicule.
Many laughed at his demands to "end" the Federal Reserve and reinstitute the gold standard. At debates, they sometimes booed his non-interventionist views on foreign policy and national security. And he never won a single nominating contest during those two presidential runs, though he did rack up delegates in 2012.
But Paul -- and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- could be the ones laughing now.
Indeed, Rand Paul's marathon filibuster on Wednesday against President Obama's pick to head the CIA -- joined by other GOP senators (including conservative stars like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) -- was the latest evidence that the Pauls might have had a larger imprint on today's Republican Party than its last two presidential nominees.
Consider the libertarianism in the Tea Party, the calls to cut spending, the growing suspicion of the Federal Reserve, and some growing skepticism about the use of force.
That sounds much more like Ron Paul than John McCain or Mitt Romney. And son Rand is already being viewed as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
But it also doesn't mean that all Republicans have jumped on board. On Thursday, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took to the Senate floor to denounce Rand Paul's criticism of the Obama administration's drone program -- the issue at the heart of his filibuster.
"If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms," McCain said, quoting the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page.
"To somehow allege or infer that the president of the United States is going to kill somebody like Jane Fonda or someone who disagrees with the policies is a stretch of imagination, which is frankly ridiculous," McCain added.
But that even this drone debate is taking place inside the GOP -- and that Cruz and Rubio joined Paul's filibuster -- shows the growing influence that the Pauls have had on the GOP and conservatism.