Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, won the Republican nomination for Kentucky's Senate race on Tuesday night, despite no formal political experience and an opponent backed by much of the GOP establishment. Rand Paul has identified himself with both the libertarianism long espoused by his father and the more recent Tea Party movement. It's been said that victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan. Who was responsible for Paul's surprising, wide-margin victory against Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson?

  • Tea Parties Won  The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse report, "In Kentucky, Rand Paul, the most visible symbol of the Tea Party movement, easily won the Republican Senate primary and delivered a significant blow to the Republican establishment. His 24-point victory ... underscored the anti-Washington sentiment echoing across the country." Paul said in his victory speech: "I have a message, a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. ... We have come to take our government back."
  • Libertarianism Won  A writer for the libertarian magazine Reason, Nick Gillespie beams, "Arguably the best news is that this, unlike 1994, isn't simply about one party benefiting at the expense of the other. Republicans are taking it on the chin along with the Democrats, suggesting that the real dynamic is about unseating entrenched, clubby incumbents who have long drank deep the same Kool-Aid of overspending and overreaching. Here's hoping."
  • Conservative Libertarianism Won  The Washington Post's David Weigel explains, "I remember seeing Paul, in early interviews and debates, distance himself from the hard-line libertarian positions, like drug legalization and the war on terror, that soured Republican voters on his father. Paul's victory came after a year of smoothing over the difference between libertarians and conservatives. His first TV ad stated opposition to the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He sought, and won, the endorsement of conservatives who are anathema to some libertarians -- Dr. James Dobson, Sarah Palin."
  • Rand Paul Won  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder knows it's not always about movements. "Rand Paul first attracted attention in Kentucky because he was Rand Paul. Then he married his anti-government message to his father's economic libertarian movement," he writes. "Paul represents pure, unadulterated libertarian-conservative id. He's not a candidate of sound bites or self-censorship. He seems authentic ... As much as Rand Paul wants to be the avatar of the Tea Party movement, he's kinda just being Rand Paul."
  • Political Activists Won  Politico's John Harris and Jim VandeHei declare, "Activists seize control of politics." They present the questionable metaphor: "The 2010 electorate has swallowed an emetic--disgorging in a series of retching convulsions officeholders in both parties who seem to embody conventional Washington politics."
The ideologically charged, grassroots activists flexing their muscle in this week's primary showdowns are the same breed as primary voters who four years ago stripped the Democratic nomination away from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who later won as an independent.

What's now clear, in a way that wasn't before, is that these results reflect a genuine national phenomenon, not simply isolated spasms in response to single issues or local circumstances.

  • Tea Parties Didn't Win The Atlantic's Joshua Green presents six reasons this "doesn't herald a Tea Party wave." Here's number five: "The Grayson family were notable Democratic fundraisers until they sensed the climate shifting in northern Kentucky, and the whole state shifting toward the GOP. They're not beloved."