Ron Paul‘s son Sen. Rand Paul, was allegedly detained by TSA in Nashville Monday after refusing a pat-down search, which prompted his father’s campaign to issue a statement denouncing the TSA. As Natalie Jennings reported:

What does Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) run-in with the Transportation Safety Administration in a Nashville airport today have to do with @MentionManchine?

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who consistently has the highest volume of Twitter mentions of any of the 2012 candidates measured in the @MentionMachine, fired off this tweet just after 10 a.m. Monday.

He posted a similar message on his Facebook page about the “detainment” of his son, Rand. TSA later issued a statment that Sen. Paul wasn’t detained, but was escorted to an alternative screening procedure area after he refused a pat-down.

By then, though, Ron Paul’s tweet had already hit its target — the highly engaged online followers who help distribute his libertarian-leaning message. Mentions of Paul spiked and his top tweets were all regarding Rand’s TSA run-in.

Both Pauls have been critical of the TSA’s pat-down procedures in the past. You can watch Rand Paul grill TSA Administrator Jon Pistole in a hearing here, and watch Ron Paul rail against the agency on the House floor here.

Social analytics Web site Topsy recorded 40,050 mentions of TSA on social channels Monday, up from 5,000 the day before.

In addition to the crush of Twitter traffic, more than 20,000 people liked Paul’s Facebook posts and more than 8,000 commented on them.

By noon ET, the incident had been widely reported on political news sites. Rand Paul spent his afternoon speaking to press about the incident and Ron Paul later issued a statment on “TSA abuses.

Rand Paul is not the first lawmaker to have issues with TSA security. As Ed O’Keefe explained:

Several lawmakers of both parties have faced issues with TSA security checkpoints, including enhanced pat-downs in sight of constituents or confrontations with security screeners. In 2009, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) accused TSA agents at the Salt Lake City Airport of unfairly targeting him after he raised questions about collective bargaining rights for agency employees.

In response to widespread criticism of its screening tactics, the TSA has begun relaxing restrictions on some passengers, including young children, the elderly and military veterans.

At Monday night’s debate, Ron Paul was asked again whether he would consider a third party run for president. While refusing to rule it out the Texas congressman said he had no intention of doing so. As AP reported:

Ron Paul says he has no intention of running for president as a third-party candidate, though he’s continuing to keep the door open a crack.

The Texas congressman is stopping short of saying no -- because he says he’s not an absolutist. Paul notes that he once left Congress vowing not to return, only to run again.

But Paul says he doesn’t have any plans to run outside the GOP and that he might even be able to endorse rival Newt Gingrich if he’s the nominee. Paul says he is happy that Gingrich keeps hinting at attacking the Federal Reserve and jokes that if he could get Gingrich to listen to him on foreign policy, as Paul puts it, “we might just be able to talk business.”

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