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Like his father, Rand Paul is a culturally conservative family man. He married Kelley Ashby 19 years ago, and they settled down in Bowling Green in 1993. Rand and Kelley now have three children, ranging in age from 10 to 16. His campaign bumper stickers and website are modeled after his father’s from the 2008 presidential primaries. And the Pauls are running on similar—but not identical—platforms.
Like his dad, Rand Paul emphasizes his opposition to federal bailouts of private industry, particularly the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). It’s an issue that puts him on the side of many rank-and-file Republicans while showcasing his independence from a party leadership that ultimately acquiesced to the Wall Street giveaway. “It divided a lot of Republicans,” Paul says. “The mainstream went along with whatever the party told them to do.”
When it comes to the Federal Reserve, Paul is also a chip off the old block. He supports his father’s “audit the Fed” bill, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, decrying the “lack of transparency in our monetary system.” Paul echoes his father’s complaint that the Federal Reserve “creates money out of thin air,” including “trillions of dollars in debt.” “We can’t sustain that,” he says. “We’re going broke.” He similarly adheres to the Austrian school’s theory of the business cycle, which holds that the central bank artificially lowers interest rates and inflates the money supply, devaluing the currency, triggering risky investments, and creating speculative bubbles.
To get more bang for his fiat currency, Rand Paul has a second tab on his campaign website dedicated to monetary policy under the heading of “inflation.” “The Federal Government is running back-breaking budget deficits, amassing crippling debt, and borrowing trillions of dollars from the Chinese to finance its extravagance,” the site warns. “Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve, an unelected group of private bankers, is printing trillions of dollars to bail out private industry, purchase government debt, and flood the market with cheap credit.”
Although these issues are identified with Ron Paul, they are gaining traction within the mainstream of his party (and even with some Democrats). Every Republican in the House has signed onto the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. With Democrats now in power, the GOP increasingly rails against deficits and the national debt. Even citing the Constitution and the doctrine of enumerated powers are once again in fashion. In Virginia last February, a group of mostly Bush-friendly conservative movement leaders endorsed a “Mount Vernon Statement” that aims to link the right under the rubric of constitutionally limited government.
On some social issues, Rand Paul—again like his father—is closer to conservatives than most libertarians. He believes the government should recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He says human life begins at conception, and he therefore opposes legal abortion and describes himself as “100 percent pro-life.” In both cases, Paul’s preference is to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over these issues and return them to the states, a position too conservative for some and too libertarian for others.
What set Ron Paul apart from most Republicans, though, was his passionate opposition to the Iraq war and to the GOP’s interventionist foreign policy. Here Rand Paul is careful to tailor his arguments in ways that appeal to more conventional conservatives. The only section of his campaign website that deals at length with the war appears under the heading “National Defense.”
“Defending our Country is the most important function of the federal government,” Paul says on his website. “When we are threatened, it is the obligation of our representatives to unleash the full arsenal of power that is granted by and derived from free men and women.” Paul argues that only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war but also says that there are times when the president “can and should make military responses without Congressional authority.”
“As a member of Congress,” the statement continues, “Dr. Rand Paul would have demanded and voted in the affirmative for a declaration of war with Afghanistan. He would have demanded and voted against a declaration of war with Iraq.” In the end, that is not much different from his father’s voting record: The elder Paul voted for the resolution that authorized the initial invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and against the authorization of force against Iraq, while unsuccessfully insisting that Congress vote on formal declarations of war against both countries. But the emphasis is clearly different.
The Rand Paul campaign also uses a somewhat different tone than Ron Paul’s on military spending: “In Rand’s proposed budget, defense spending would represent a larger percentage of the total budget than it does today, while military spending on unnecessary programs and unconstitutional operations would be eliminated.” Says Rand Paul campaign manager David Adams: “What people are seeing is that despite what our opponent says, Rand is actually very strong on national defense. He believes in doing what it takes to keep the American people safe and secure.”
This careful messaging has helped Rand win the mainstream conservative support that eluded his father’s Republican presidential campaign. The biggest example is the endorsement of former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who said she was “proud to support great grassroots candidates like Dr. Paul.” In an oblique reference to Paul’s deviations from the Republican line on foreign policy and civil liberties, Palin continued, “While there are issues we disagree on, he and I are both in agreement that it’s time to shake up the status quo in Washington and stand up for common sense ideas.” Trey Grayson’s campaign responded by initially questioning the authenticity of Palin’s endorsement.
Palin isn’t the only prominent Republican to pick Paul over Grayson. The publisher, flat-tax maven, and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes is a Paul backer. So is former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose organization FreedomWorks lists Paul as one of the five most important candidates to support in 2010. Concerned Women for America has endorsed Paul, helping to allay concerns about his social conservatism. Gun Owners of America weighed in on Paul’s behalf as well, though there were never any questions about his opposition to gun control.
Paul is even starting to be mentioned alongside other conservative movement–approved candidates in the Republican primaries: Marco Rubio in Florida, Ovide Lamontagne in New Hampshire, and Chuck DeVore in California. Such company has helped him appeal to Republicans who wanted to read his father out of the party in 2008, such as Erick Erickson of the activist conservative blog RedState.
During the presidential primaries, RedState users with accounts less than six months old were banned from posting about Ron Paul. “Hey, we’re sure some of Ron Paul’s supporters really are Republicans,” Erickson and Leon Wolf wrote at the time. But this year, things are different. “Fiorina, Ayotte, and Grayson become establishment candidates,” Erickson argued in a post. “That means they must all three be beaten.” Even if that means supporting Rand Paul? “I am 1,000,000 percent on board with Rand Paul.”
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