It's been all very predictable. Rand Paul has had to temper some of his libertarian rhetoric in order to broaden his appeal within the Republican Party and the general populace in general, and that has down-the-line libertarians upset. Nick Gillespie, of whom I am a fan, writes in the Daily Beast:
The gap between his remarks to evangelicals and those directed at the party faithful raise the question: Is Rand Paul simply the latest in a long line of Republicans who cultivate libertarian-leaning voters—broadly speaking, people who believe in fiscal conservatism and social liberalism—as they gear up for presidential bids? And then disappoint those same voters almost immediately?
In short, Americans seem more primed than ever to give a long look at a Rand Paul Republican Party that "embrace[s] liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere." It'll be a weird—and unfortunate—sort of irony if Rand Paul turns out to be one of the few people left in America not fully comfortable with his own message.
It's been the libertarian mantra for quite some time that there is some sort of silent libertarian majority out there, it just needs to be channeled properly. Heck, Nick Gillespie even wrote a book on the subject. While I used to like to believe that, especially when I was in college, that is just not political reality. The Libertarian Party has not been able to break through 1% in Presidential elections since 1980 and wasn't even able to do so in 2012 with a 2 term Governor on the ticket. Even within the Republican Party, Ron Paul received 5.5% of the vote in 2008 and 10.9% in 2012. Pure Libertarian candidates can't even muster anything even close to a strong minority in the Republican Party, much less the country as a whole.
In order to win the nomination, Rand Paul needs to win in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. If he finds the right balance of attracting social & economic conservatives at the same time, he has a chance of taking all three. He already has a huge lead in Iowa and a smaller one in New Hampshire thanks to his strategy to soften some of his libertarianism. And I have no problem with anything that he is saying. His biggest hurdle with social conservatives is to convince them that he is not a libertine (which is how libertarians are viewed amongst this population) and coming out as pro-life, for letting the states decide on gay marriage and for softening drug penalties without legalization help him achieve that without aggravating the practical (vs. dogmatic) libertarians in the party. From my point of view, as long as what he says takes us in the right direction, I'm okay with that, it doesn't have to be the full libertarian utopia immediately. That is what Ron Paul was espousing and look where that got him? Some notoriety but nowheresville politically.
I have no doubt that Rand Paul shares the core libertarian ideals of his father, he may disagree on a few points (like Israel thankfully) but generally he is probably the most libertarian candidate with a realistic chance at the nomination that we have had in a long time. He is able to have this chance by actually playing politics, let's not sabotage it by being upset that he doesn't follow the libertarian line everywhere he goes.