Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was just on the Senate floor, speaking at length in opposition to arming the Syrian rebels against the Islamic State -- even as he supports airstrikes against that same foe.

It was pretty apparently a losing battle for Paul, as there won't be a separate vote on the matter. And on its surface, it would appear to be poor politics; after all, the American people are pretty gung-ho about going after the extremists in Syria and Iraq.

But it's not quite so simple.

If airstrikes and arming rebels are two different questions in Paul's mind, so, too, are they different in the minds of the American people. And there's significantly less support for the latter. A CBS/New York Times poll this week showed 69 percent of Americans back airstrikes in Syria, but just 48 percent support assisting the rebels. Forty percent opposed arming the rebels.

So clearly, Paul is in-line with the views of a significant chunk of Americans.

But the problem for him is that he's not really representing a ton of Republicans. While the overall split on arming the rebels is 48-40, within the GOP it's 56-34.

That's not exactly the recipe for a winning political issue for a 2016 hopeful. But, in fairness to Paul, that's probably not why he did it.