The Atlantic national politics staff writer Molly Ball catches some time with Kentucky senator Rand Paul, whom she calls “the more politically savvy heir to his father’s legacy of libertarian-tinged conservatism.”

Ball also notes that while Rand has campaigned for his dad, “many Paul-watchers wonder if Rand isn’t the one more suited to the national spotlight.” But when the subject of his own political future came up, Rand Paul kept the focus firmly on the present, saying, when asked if he might run for president himself, “I’m focused on helping my dad right now.”

Rand praised the Ron Paul campaign’s caucus-focused strategy, but acknowledged, “I think he needs a breakthrough. He needs a victory.” So while the media thinks Ron has a chance, Rand says that his dad does believe that he can win, but Ron “has a very modest demeanor” and isn’t prone to cheerleading or bragging. 

Plus, Rand pointed out that Ron has become a viable enough candidate to be the subject of head-to-head poll questions about President Obama. “Because he’s been included in all these polls, they’ve been able to measure and see the youth vote that he captures,” Rand said. That being the case, he concedes that Ron Paul is probably more appealing to general election voters than Republican primary voters. “Some of that’s justified,” Rand Paul said. “But I also think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pundits say it over and over again [that he can’t win], and it does hurt his numbers.”

Asked if Ron fits in with the mainstream of the Republican party, Rand mentions that his father and Rick Perry’s shared desire to eliminate the Department of Education is not particularly radical, but rather, was a core Republican position going back to Ronald Reagan, from 1980 to 2000. Then George W. Bush expanded the department with No Child Left Behind.

And those inked-up Paul supporters that campaign manager Jesse Benton told to “cover [their] tattoos and cut [their] hair”? Rand is all for them coming as they are. “[Ron Paul] brings new people to the [Republican] party,” Rand Paul said. “You don’t win as a party unless you become a bigger party . . . It’s not uncommon to see someone with tattoos working in [Ron Paul’s] office. Whereas you go to most Republican rallies, everybody’s wearing a suit and tie and looks like they came from the Chamber of Commerce or from a cutout mold.”

Read Ball’s entire Rand Paul Q&A here.