Fresh off a big straw poll win at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has a new op-ed taking aim without mentioning names at second-place finisher and fellow conservative heartthrob Sen. Ted Cruz.

Paul never actually uses Cruz’s name in the commentary published on Breitbart, but the reference is obvious enough, as Politico explains:

“I don’t claim to be the next Ronald Reagan nor do I attempt to disparage fellow Republicans as not being sufficiently Reaganesque,” Paul wrote. “I will remind anyone who thinks we will win elections by trashing previous Republican nominees or holding oneself out as some paragon in the mold of Reagan, that splintering the party is not the route to victory.”

Though Paul never names Cruz in the op-ed, his comments are clearly aimed at the Texas Republican, who is prone to opine about Reagan and offer the former president as an example for today’s GOP to follow.

Although there are sincere ideological differences between Paul and his friends in the conservative movement, and he writes about those in his commentary, he also has a political motivation to go after Cruz. Both men are considered potential candidates in the wide-open 2016 Republican presidential primary, and both would compete most directly for the hearts of the conservative base. After all, they took first and second place at the CPAC straw poll, although Paul nearly tripled his opponent’s score with 31 percent of the vote. It makes sense for Paul, if he indeed desires to run (and he has said that’s a possibility), to put some distance between himself and Cruz.

The most obvious difference between them is Paul’s libertarian perspective on foreign entanglements. He embraces Ronald Reagan’s “Peace Through Strength” motto and generally opposes military engagement.

“Every Republican likes to think he or she is the next Ronald Reagan,” Paul begins. “Some who say this do so for lack of their own ideas and agenda.” Burn.

Paul also has the good political sense to defend past GOP candidates from Cruz’s — or whoever’s — attacks. This opens him to alliances with the establishment GOP, its standard bearers and donors. You’re not going to get an endorsement from Mitt Romney (should he decide not to run a third consecutive time) if you call him a loser in front of all his friends, as Cruz more or less has.

Although clever, Paul is guilty of his own criticism. “Reagan was a great leader and president,” he writes. “But too often people make him into something he wasn’t in order to serve their own political purposes.” Paul goes on to describe a man committed to diplomacy and disengagement, which is a somewhat remarkable feat of historical amnesia or ignorance. Reagan may not have gotten into a land war in Iraq, but he sent spooks and cash all over the world to support juntas and death squads and generally destabilize and interfere with any government he didn’t like. Did we forget about the secret war in Afghanistan? And then there’s Grenada, aka Operation Urgent Fury.

Strength through peace? More like closeted warmongering.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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