The Washington Times - December 9, 2011, 12:48PM

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a favorite of the tea party and son of GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul, warned Friday that the Republican Party would take a step back if it taps either of the race’s two frontrunners, Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, as its nominee in the 2012 race.

The younger Mr. Paul described Mr. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, as a “moderate, Northeastern, don’t-rock-the-boat” candidate in an op-ed that appeared in the Des Moines Register. But he concentrated most of his fire at Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, calling him as the “status quo” candidate and a “Rockefeller Republican from the liberal wing of the party.”

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Mr. Gingrich “is not from the tea party. He is not even a conservative,” Mr. Paul wrote.

The attack from Mr. Paul follows numerous polls showing Mr. Gingrich leading among Republican voters nationwide and in Iowa, where the Jan. 3 caucuses kick off the race and where Mr. Paul’s father hopes that his loyal base of supports can help him pull off a surprise win.

“Unfortunately, while all Republican candidates would be an improvement over the present administration, two of the current frontrunners simply do not represent the tea party, the conservative movement, or the type of change our country desperately needs in 2012,” said Rand Paul, who emerged as one of the tea party’s biggest stars after handily winning his Senate race in 2010.

He pointed out that the Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney supported the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package in 2008, and have backed in the past an individual mandate for health care along the lines of the one in President Obama’s health care law. Mr. Gingrich has previously voiced support for it on the federal level, while the mandate was a key element of the universal health care law that Mr. Romney signed into law as government of Massachusetts in 2006.

“Since the tea party started as a reaction to Republicans who voted for [the bailout], and was strengthened into a national political force during the fight over ObamaCare, I believe this disqualifies both Romney and Gingrich from tea party support,” Mr. Paul said.

The senator trained his heaviest fire on Mr. Gingrich, saying that the Georgia Republican tries, but fails, to disguise the fact that his heart is still in the “liberal wing of the party.” That was clear, he said, when he endorsed a moderate establishment candidate over a more conservative challenger in a hotly contested special election for a vacant New York congressional seat in 2010.

Mr. Paul also highlighted the 2008 commercial Mr. Gingrich filmed with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on climate change awareness, his previous support of funding for Planned Parenthood and his lucrative contract advising troubled federal mortgage giant Freddie Mac in the years before it needed a taxpayer bailout as well.

“While one candidate in the race, my father, Rep. Ron Paul, was publicly warning about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the crisis they were helping to create, Gingrich was earning millions to not only endorse but also promote the status quo,” he said, calling the former speaker a “status quo Republican.”