Newsweek's Howard Fineman has no illusions about Republican Ron Paul's political clout. The Texas Congressman, he says, is obscure, radical and, at 74, too old to lead the GOP. Fineman calls his ideas "dangerous" and his supporters "paranoid" conspiracy theorists. But despite all that, should Paul be his party's guiding light? Fineman thinks so:

Paul has become a player in Washington and at the grassroots. His emergence should be a lesson to rudderless Republicans. They don't want to scare away independent voters, but they need to find a way to emulate Paul's outsider's anger and his commitment to conservative essentials...

The GOP needs to study Ron Paul, and learn. No one has better captured the sense of Main Street outrage over secret insider deals and Wall Street bonuses. No one has been more consistent about sticking to core conservative values--including the one that says the government shouldn't spend more money than it takes in. If the GOP is going to appeal to independent voters, it has to confront its own corporate allies.
Pointing to his success corralling 309 House votes in support of a federal audit--one of the congressman's lifelong goals--Fineman suggests Paul's blend of principled, angry, outsider libertarianism is exactly what the GOP needs. Is he right?