Facing An Uphill Battle, Rand Paul Enters The Race For President

Rand Paul is the latest Republican to enter the race, but his path to even becoming a contender is a difficult one at best.

Rand Paul Campaign Rally

To the surprise of nobody considering the fact that it had been telegraphed to supporters and the media for at least the past two weeks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul became the latest candidate in the race for the Republican nomination for President in 2016:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky officially declared himself a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, promising a crowd of cheering supporters that he is ready to shake up Washington and disprove those in his own party who doubt that a fiercely libertarian conservative can be a serious contender.

“The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped,” Mr. Paul told a jubilant audience at the Galt House hotel. “I want to be part of a return to prosperity.”

In a speech outlining his small-government vision for the country, Mr. Paul leaned heavily on his biography, describing his experience as an eye surgeon, a career that inspired him after his grandmother’s vision failed. Recalling his own story of living the American dream, Mr. Paul scolded both Republicans and Democrats for failing Americans.

“What kind of America will our grandchildren see?” he asked. “It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame.”

Mr. Paul sought to fend off criticism that he is overly isolationist and potentially weak against defense.

“Conservatives should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow succeed at building nations abroad,” he said. “I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by overseas nation building.”

Regarding negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, Mr. Paul said any deal must be approved by Congress.

“I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures,” he said. “I will insist that any final version be brought before Congress.”

Mr. Paul drew loud cheers by criticizing President Obama’s domestic surveillance program, arguing that the United States has been compromising liberty for a false sense of security.

“The president created this vast dragnet by executive order,” he said. “As president, on Day 1 I will immediately end unconstitutional surveillance.”

Mr. Paul also outlined his positions on economic policy, saying that poor cities should benefit from “economic freedom zones” and manufacturing jobs could be created by cutting taxes for American companies that return overseas profits to the United States.

Paul’s campaign is likely to be the most unique in terms of the constituencies that it will seek to appeal to, something which makes the task ahead of him even more difficult that current numbers may indicate. In addition to the Tea Party movement that helped propel him to the Senate five years ago, Senator Paul has also relied heavily in the past on the network of support that this father developed during his campaigns for President in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, though, Paul has also sought to distinguish himself from his father both in terms of ideology, such as in the form of a foreign policy that is assuredly more open to an active role for the United States in the world, and in the manner in which he has worked to build coalitions in ways that his father never did. Early on, for example, Paul made peace with Kentucky’s senior Senator Mitch McConnell, who had supported Paul’s opponent in the 2010 Republican Senate Primary. As I’ve said before, this was a smart political move for both Senators since it allowed Paul to put to rest any worries about an attack from the Kentucky GOP at home and McConnell to at least some extent bring many of the Tea Party supporters who had backed Paul into his camp. Paul has also reached across party aisles on issues such as sentencing reform, and at least made an effort to reach into minority communities and other areas where Republicans typically can’t be found. Not all of these efforts have met with success, of course, but they offer something of a preview of the kind of campaign we’re likely to see from Paul. The open question is whether its the kind of campaign that can win a Republican nomination.

As it stands, Paul faces some rather obvious uphill battles inside the GOP as the nomination battle heats up.

The most obvious of these, of course, will be over the area of foreign policy where Paul has staked out positions that are quite often far different from the far more belligerent positions of other Republicans such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, or even Jeb Bush. While Paul’s positions on these issues are far more open to the idea of American intervention abroad than his fathers have been, they are still far more anti-interventionist than what is arguably the mainstream in the Republican Party. Long before today, in fact, Paul’s views on these issues have been the subject of criticism from Rick Perry, Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and others who have attempted to falsely label the Senator as an isolationist. Without a doubt, those same messages will be heard from many of Paul’s opponents in the months to come, as well as from the SuperPACs and other groups that will make their presence in the race known. That process already started today, in fact, with the announcement of a $1,000,000 campaign from one such group that will fund anti-Paul commercials that will air in Iowa and New Hampshire just as he is touring those states this week. This is likely to just be the beginning of the negative attacks on Paul.

Paul’s other battle will come with the need to figure out how to balance the need to appeal to traditional Republican constituencies in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire with the need to keep the appeal to other groups. As I noted last week, for example, in recent months Paul has made some rather obvious overtures to social conservatives on the issue of marriage which are likely necessitated by the composition of the electorate in those early states. At the same time, though, his campaign is relying on what would be some rather unprecedented support from younger voters who don’t typically vote in Republican primaries and who are likely to be turned off by the appeals he’s made to the far right on marriage and other issues. It’s a risky strategy on both sides of the equation, and one that certainly seems more likely to fail than succeed.

As it stands right now, Paul seems stuck in the middle of the prospective GOP pack, with a large uphill battle ahead of him. In national polling, he’s currently tied with Ted Cruz in the RealClearPolitics polling average at 8.7%, behind both Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Paul does a little better in Iowa where he’s currently tied with Jeb Bush at 11.3% in the polling average behind Walker and Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, he’s averaging 11.2% in the polls behind both Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. Beyond those two states, though, Paul’s numbers are less impressive at the moment. He’s down at 6.0% in the South Carolina polls and just 4.3% in the polling that has been done to date in Florida. Obviously, these numbers will likely tick up over the next couple weeks in the wake of Paul’s announcement, but the real test will be what happens once all the candidates are in the race, and once the debates start, and once the negative ads start having their impact. If, at that point, Paul still finds himself near the top of the pack then he might have a slim chance of, at the very least, becoming the challenger to whomever the frontrunner will be in 2016. As things stand right now, though, it seems like it’s a slim chance at best.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Modulo Myself says:

    Paul’s campaign is likely to be the most unique in terms of the constituencies that it will seek to appeal to, something which makes the task ahead of him even more difficult that current numbers may indicate.

    No one has ever appealed to angry white men from the Midwest and South before. It’s a first! Will there be talk about big government and taxes? Or coastal elites? It’s hard to say. This is new terrain we are in, people.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Doug:

    Paul does a little bitter in Iowa

    You know, I think you’re quite right there….

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    Live from the Galt House hotel! It’s the Rand Paul show!!

    I bet 5 gold chits that the only primary he might win is in Nevada. :))

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Rand Paul…the son of a 16 year Congressman who became a Senator is going to go to Washington…wait…stay in Washington…and change it’s ways.
    Yo, Mister Small Government, please Govern us!!!!
    Take Our America Back. To what? The 19th century?
    You go, Aqua Buddha, you go……Muwahahahahahhahahahahahhahaa.

  5. JohnMcC says:

    From the cited New York Times story: “Mr Paul drew loud cheers by criticizing President Obama’s domestic surveillance program, arguing that the United States has been compromising liberty for a false sense of security.

    ” ‘The President created this vast dragnet by executive order,’ he said”

    Which is true. But the President was not Mr Obama. From 2001 to 2007 the interception of overseas electronic communication proceeded solely on the basis of Mr Bush’s executive order. His administration got significant criticism for this from the liberal side of politics and finally re-instituted the FISA court. In April of ’09 the present administration admitted that the collection of this intelligence had been overzealous and claimed (YMMV) that the FISA Court system had been strengthened.

    So Sen Paul is smearing the current President with the deeds of his own party. Classy.

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    The parallels between L. Ron Hubbard and his followers and Ayn Rand and her followers become stronger, year by year. I’m not even sure who has worse taste.

  7. JohnMcC says:

    @C. Clavin: Actually Mr Ron Paul (the senior Paul) was a member of the House from east Texas. He represented the 14th and then the 22d districts. Don’t guess this changes the significance of your comment which pins the elitist label securely on the Paul family and points out that their political philosophy is regressive. But I’m sort of stickler for that kind of thing (when I’m not keyboarding under the influence and getting all PTSD at trolls.)

  8. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped,” Mr. Paul told a jubilant audience at the Galt House hotel.

    You must be kidding me…

  9. HarvardLaw92 says:

    He’s apparently doing his level best to get the Kentucky legislature to change the law in order to allow him to simultaneously run for his Senate seat again. Even he doesn’t expect him to be a viable candidate.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: As with most of the Clown Car, the question is what’s he really running for: prez, veep, to be in line for next time, book deal, grift, publicity, ego, delusion? With Rand Paul, I wouldn’t rule out any of the above.

  11. ernieyeball says:

    Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.
    In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years – a roughly 16 percent increase.
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/rand-paul-abandons-his-pentagon-plan

    Will the real Dandy Randy Paul please stand up?
    Why yes he will. Just watch.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/05/1319279/-DREAMers-confront-Rand-Paul-and-Steve-King-Watch-their-hilarious-and-offensive-reactions

  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    All of the above, IMO. That said, the more clowns riding around in the clown car – and thereby dragging out the GOP primaries into more of a sideshow & dividing the party base against itself – the merrier as far as I’m concerned. Rand Paul, who seems to have inherited his father’s nitwit brigade of Ronulan fanboys, especially helps in that regard. I encourage every off his/her rocker Republican who thinks he/she has a shot at the nomination – or even if they don’t – to run.

    Oh, and if Akin and Mourdock want to run for the presidency, that’d be just great too 😀

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: No, it really looks like Rand Paul is going to run on a straight Republican platform, with Libertarian hiccups on anything that won’t bring the so-cons or the neo-cons out baying for his head, and make Ayn Randian dog whistles to keep his father’s fanbois on board.

    The fact that this ends up as a completely incoherent mess worthy of Romney will be dutifully ignored by everyone.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. In other words, with any other of the Republican candidates, they’ll run on a platform of bombing Iran the day they get elected. Rand Paul is different: he’ll do it the day after.

  15. Mu says:

    But how is he going to enforce his full blown social conservative goals without the aid of the surveillance state? Can’t get people for illegal abortions and “the gay” if you can’t keep tabs on them.
    Confused in Alabama

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @JohnMcC:
    Bad grammar…Ron Paul was a 16 year Congressman, and Rand became a Senator.

  17. James Pearce says:

    Rand Paul should resign his seat in Congress, move to Colorado, run for office here, and if he can win……then he should run for the presidency.

    Coming out of Kentucky is going to leave him ill-prepared to talk to the rest of the country.

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    disprove those in his own party who doubt that a fiercely libertarian conservative can be a serious contender.

    Where is Paul going to find this fiercely libertarian conservative? And how does Paul’s choice to run as a run of the mill neoconservative against this fiercely libertarian conservative increase that other fella’s chance of getting elected?

  19. Tillman says:

    At the same time, though, his campaign is relying on what would be some rather unprecedented support from younger voters who don’t typically vote in Republican primaries and who are likely to be turned off by the appeals he’s made to the far right on marriage and other issues.

    Not a problem for the True Believers, and they are the majority of the youth support the Pauls have enjoyed in my experience.

    Not sure precisely what’s so appealing about Paul to a college-aged white kid (which I used to be — not a Paul supporter but the other one) but it is there. I want to say it has something to do with arcane knowledge imparted cult-like, like the “Secrets of the Elders of the Fed” or similar.

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    One of the unfortunate legacies of Obama’s presidency: every two-bit half-term senator now thinks he’s qualified to be President. I like Paul but he’s not qualified to be President. And his floundering around on the issues shows this.

  21. ernieyeball says:

    One of the unfortunate legacies of Obama’s presidency: every two-bit half-term senator now thinks he’s qualified to be President.

    Maybe we should amend the Constitution to require that Senators serve 10 years in the Upper House as a qualification to run for President.
    Like our 33rd Commander in Chief.

    “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.”
    Missouri Sen. Harry Truman, one week after Hitler invaded the
    Soviet Union in 1941

  22. ernieyeball says:

    @ernieyeball:.Maybe we should amend the Constitution to require that Senators serve 10 years in the Upper House as a qualification to run for serve as President.

    (Glad to see edit function working on Safari again. Too bad I did not catch my error in time to use it.)

  23. ernieyeball says:

    Since we are going to amend the Constitution we have to do something about these politicians who just won’t go away. Term limits must be imposed at all levels of government.

    Eighty Eight year old Bob Butler has won another term
    as mayor of Marion IL.
    Butler has served 52 years in office. This will be his 14th term.
    http://www.wsiltv.com/news/local/Vote-2015-Marion-Mayors-Race-298962361.html

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Tillman: Paul Krugman has this pretty well covered in his blog,

    Nate Cohn tells us that Rand Paul can’t win as a libertarian, because there basically aren’t any libertarians. … not many Americans consider themselves libertarian, and even those who do are deluding themselves.

    In any case, bear this in mind whenever you read some pontificating about a libertarian moment, or whatever. There are almost no genuine libertarians in America — and the people who like to use that name for themselves do not, in reality, love liberty.

    The linked Nate Cohn column says that only 12% of Rs identify as libertarian, showing they “met a basic threshold for knowing what the term meant.” Probably not true, as the number of people identifying as conservative despite their liberal policy positions shows not that we’re a “center right nation”, but that they don’t know the meaning of “conservative”. Probably also true of “libertarian”.

    I’m not sure I see this as the big problem for Paul that Krugman and Cohn do. He’s a Republican. He’ll lie. He’ll pander shamelessly to the GOP base while trying to maintain a veneer of libertarian “cool”. The Fonzi of the Iowa caucuses or something.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:It should be noted that even the older Paul’s “libertarianism” was never exactly pure. While he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 1988, even then some of his positions diverged from the party’s platform (on abortion, for example), and many in the Reason crowd have long viewed Paul with some suspicion.

    Moreover, a lot of people even on the left are too quick to accept uncritically the easy equation between increasing liberty and reducing government–especially reducing the Federal government. It’s very hard to see how Paul’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of ’64 or Lawrence v. Texas would lead to greater liberty, yet both positions are well in line with some definitions of libertarianism.

    Perhaps Will Wilkinson put it best: “libertarians have done a terrible job countering the widespread suspicion that theirs is a uselessly abstract ideology of privilege for socially obtuse adolescent white guys. Ron Paul sure isn’t helping.”

  26. Realist says:

    Libertarians are just a sub-set of Republicans expressing in even more incoherent form the entire phony government is tyranny thesis. Is the government now larger and more powerful than it was 100 years ago? Well of course it is. Has the economic, political and social liberty of the vast majority of individuals increased in that time? Of course it has. Take women, for example, who are over 50% of the population. Do they more have more freedom and equality today than in 1915. Of course they do.

  27. de stijl says:

    Dude is trying to pull a Face-Heel Turn(1) on foreign policy. Ain’t gonna work.

    Republican caucus and primary voters have a deep need for their candidates to be belligerent bullies in foreign policy matters. A Johnny-come-lately need not apply.

    The Republican base demands that candidates for the highest office in the land firmly believe in, and espouse the Ledeen Doctrine: “Every ten years or so(2), the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

    (1) From the Republican perspective he is actually trying to do a Heel-Face Turn – switching from an isolationist (bad guy) to war-monger (good guy)
    (2) Since updated to “every year or so”

  28. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    Ron Paul sure isn’t helping.

    [Rand singing] “I have blah-blah foreign policy, so person come help.”

    [Rand Jr. waving] “Hey, Dad! Look who it is! It’s Grandpa. Hi, Grandpa!”

    [Rand] “I know who it is.”

    [Ron] “Six candidates in front of us, Rand.”

    [Rand] “You’re not helping, Dad.”

  29. jewelbomb says:

    The problem with Paul’s candidacy is that he’s not as smart as he thinks he is and the electorate isn’t as dumb as he thinks they are. The recent video of him throwing a tantrum when asked a completely reasonable question by a reporter shows that he’s just not ready for prime time.
    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/rand-paul-savannah-guthrie-fight-116757.html

  30. Tillman says:

    @de stijl: I think we can safely cast Paul into the Heel Face Revolving Door. Or is that Romney territory?

    Why do I feel like I’m stretching tropes too thin to make a trivial point? 🙂

  31. de stijl says:

    @Tillman:

    Why do I feel like I’m stretching tropes too thin to make a trivial point? 🙂

    Because it’s fun and obscure, and obscure fun is the most fun of all.

    Back to Paul, what do you call an Unloveable Rogue who thinks he is a Loveable Rogue?