Frustrated that the last two Republican presidential candidates weren't believable conservatives, right-leaning activists, donors and policy experts in Washington are already coalescing around Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul three years before the 2016 election, a huge head start meant to ward off competitors such as Wisconsin Sen. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
"He's the package who is a conservative who means it," said one of those involved.
"Rand is the new and improved Ron Paul. He has no baggage and is our best chance to get a president who will cut the size and scope of the government," said another.
Because Paul hasn't indicated his presidential plans, the activists spoke on background, but they are as excited about his politics as those who cheered Paul Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
The Paul backers pushing him to run provided multiple reasons he will emerge over other GOP candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio:
-- Because he's a rookie senator, he's free of bad decisions governors enter races with.
-- He has his father's libertarian pedigree, but has distanced himself from Ron Paul on key issues such as Israel, which Rand Paul recently visited.
-- He inherits his father's political operation and donors but also picks up donors who felt Ron Paul was odd.
-- Paul has become the leader of the pack of new and dynamic conservatives including Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who form a formidable trio that is taking the Senate by storm while dragging GOP leaders to their positions.
-- He is expected to unveil a budget plan that would balance in five years.
Paul also polls well. Since he was slapped as a "wacko bird" by Sen. John McCain for Paul's filibuster against CIA Director John Brennan last week, he has surged nine points in Rasmussen's favorability ratings, to 67 percent. McCain dropped to 52 percent.