Conservative pundit Bill Kristol hates Ron Paul. All through the hour on C-SPAN’s afternoon call-in show yesterday he kept coming back to it, proudly pitching the praises of his own kind; the predictable and graceful long-in-the-tooth old school after the Beatles had already landed. And that is the Republicans’ dilemma. Because the rebel yell is heard again in the heartland and the young’uns rise again in the night, this time rallying to Ron Paul’s revolutionary cry. It is the greatest measure of Ron Paul’s achievement. Could be the real big story this cycle is Ron Paul.

Paul should do well in South Carolina and his ideas, taken from Jefferson and the Austrian economists, will not fall fallow in South Carolina or throughout the heartland where things of the earth agree. Paul has marked a distinct change in American consciousness and it could well mark the century.

But he cannot bring this thinking much further. Nor can his son, Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWe need congressional debate on Yemen Senate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro Overnight Defense: Civilian casualties raise questions about rules of engagement | Air Force nominee set for hearing | Senate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro MORE of Kentucky, who is doing a great job just where he is but would do even better as governor of Kentucky. Ron Paul will bring it to the convention, but there he will have reached the water’s edge. And anyway, like all tricksters who initiate organic change and even revolution, John Brown or Boston’s James Otis, who inspired John Adams, he is cranky and contentious. Lew Lehrman, who authored “The Case for Gold” with Paul in 1982, might take it from there.

If Paul, then Lehrman: You get much of what is needed in Paul without the bloody revolution. And Romney, who knows how to fix things, could find a match in Lehrman to accommodate the vicissitude of Paulian change without chaos or breakage. In this regard, Lehrman is more a man of the times than Romney or any of the non-Pauls who will rise to the stage tomorrow night in South Carolina.

And tomorrow will be telling. Crowds rose to their feet when Gingrich spoke of his personal brand of economic liberation in soaring rhetoric. They cheered as well Ron Paul, although MSM edited much of it. Romney has the go-along-get-along vote, but spirits are rising. Front-runner next week could just as well be Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich (with Sarah Palin, who has endorsed him in South Carolina, tagging along again as VP).

But Romney is likely to win and take it by Florida. He should consider Lew Lehrman as VP. These two together could build a new establishment and one that could creatively surf the contours ahead of economic tide receding in Europe and rising in Asia with us stuck in the middle. The potential for failure is catastrophic. Mastery is needed now, not ideology. And Romney and Lehrman are masters.

Lehrman is smart-as-paint and a stalwart Reagan Republican. He achieved national prominence in a 1982 campaign for governor of New York, in which he ran a close race against Democrat Mario Cuomo.

“Gold puts the money supply back in the hands of the people,” he told Fox’s Neil Cavuto recently, who called his debates with Cuomo “a Lincoln-Douglas moment.” Lehrman is a fearless intellectual, and he repeated his case Monday night on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch.”

Think of Lehrman as the “thinking man’s” Ron Paul, but with foreign policy perspective closer to real time and as better friend to Israel.

Conservatism has not seen a better man since Eisenhower. A match with Romney would not bring a revolution, but a sea change.