Rand Paul

Rand Paul Wins CPAC Poll; Reaffirms His Opposition to Abortion


As Reason 24/7 dutifully informed you, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won his first (though likely not last) presidential poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, edging his nearest rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) 25-23 percent. (And the National Jewish Democratic Council thinks that's a terrible thing, and reminded the world that the Democratic Party is better because it is more reliably for war on Iran.)

A CPAC poll victory is by no means a rocket-sled to real-world victory. His father Ron Paul won the poll twice, in 2010 and 2011. As Nick Gillespie wrote here after that second Ron Paul victory, it made the media quickly discount any possible significance to the poll, even though it presaged Paul coming in second in actual delegate votes on the floor at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last summer.

A Paulite blogging under the name "Barry Goldwater" gives special extra significance to Rand's victory since he says there was no organized liberty movement push to rack up CPAC votes for Rand as there has been for Ron in his victories, and that since Rand doesn't even have the sure support of his father's old fans, this proves Rand Paul's outreach strategy to the larger party must be working so far.

CNN on the also-rans:

The ballot included 23 Republicans with a national political profile as well as spots for write-ins and "undecided."

Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and 43 others—including former president Richard Nixon, who died in 1994—received at least one write-in vote.

Another potential presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, asked not to be on the ballot. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who received 7%, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, were on the ballot but were not invited to speak on the main stage….

Rounding out the top 10 vote-getters were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 5%, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 4%, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at 4%, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin—the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate—with 3%.

Given that Palin also gave a prominent talk at the convention, I don't think you can credit the mere excitement of proximity for Paul doing so well. His filibuster over domestic drones–as well as being the only guy admitting the GOP needs an overhaul in the direction of more liberty, more civil liberty, and a foreign policy that at least recognizes the possibility that war isn't a necessary solution to all our disagreements with our enemies–are winning him genuine love in the young-skewing activist base of CPAC.

While at CPAC, Charles Murray, author of the welfare policy classic Losing Ground and What it Means to Be A Libertarian, gave a CPAC speech in which he recommended that the Party cool it on such social policy issues as gay marriage and abortion prohibition, to win a newer generation of voters. 

George Will on ABC News Sunday celebrated the "rise of the libertarian strand" in the GOP at CPAC, including a more sane foreign policy and live and let live about drugs and gay marriage.

Rand Paul for his part used CPAC weekend to release his own newest legislative action on abortion:

S.583, a bill that would implement equal protection under the 14th Amendment for the right to life of each born and unborn human. This legislation does not amend or interpret the Constitution, but simply relies on the 14th Amendment, which specifically authorizes Congress to enforce its provisions.

From Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

"The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known- that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward," Sen. Paul said. 

Paul has said various times, to me and other reporters, that he recognizes that the Party has to reach beyond its base to be a successful national party. At the same time, he doesn't seem to think that hewing so tightly to this anti-abortion position will lose him the independents and disaffected Democrats who might like him on civil liberties and foreign policy; I'm not as sure as he is. (He also insists that his position is perfectly libertarian–if you believe a developing fetus is a human life, laws protecting it are no more unlibertarian than laws against murder.)

While I'm not sure how CPAC activists en masse feel about abortion, Paul's re-emphasizing the issue right before the poll vote didn't hurt him. (Most recent national polls see a 54-44 split in favor of legal abortion.) In electoral terms, being an anti-abortion libertarian will undoubtedly make some Republicans more comfortable with him as it makes many Democrats and independents less comfortable with him. I don't think Paul is making the decision with cynical electoral calculation either way. For whatever reason, most national media focusing on Paul don't seem to consider his abortion stance something worth paying much attention to. That would likely change if and when he's the Republican presidential nominee.

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  1. Rand Paul for his part used CPAC weekend to release his own newest legislative action on abortion:

    A big demerit on the LP Purity Test.

    1. A big demerit on the LP Purity Test.

      Not really. Libertarians can disagree on abortion and still be libertarian.

      1. I’d probably just leave him alone. He’ll probably just lick the paint on the walls until falling asleep.

        It’s for the best really.

        1. A litmus test that half the country passes. I had no idea half the country was libertarian. Fuck, we should win in 2016.

      2. Using the government police state to surveil and convict docs and women for their private decisions is decidely anti-libertarian.

        1. Using the government police state to surveil and convict docs and women for their private decisions to kill a human being is decidely anti-libertarian.


        2. Unless you believe that life begins at conception, which I don’t. But one can believe that and still be reasonably called a libertarian.

          1. We all agree that taking human life is wrong, but the debate is about when human life begins. Nothing anti-libertarian about that.

            1. Not true in the slightest. I, along with many others, believe a woman’s body to be her property. Therefore, she should be allowed to evict whatever (whomever, if you will) she wishes.

  2. When will Republicans learn that guns, gays, and abortion doesn’t win elections?

    1. They are so effective at the state and district level, they are never going to be free of them at the national level.

    2. Technically, guns do win elections.

      1. True. Gore lost at least 600 votes in Florida due to the 90s anti-gun legislation.

      2. Fearmongerer! No one in a government elected by the people would be that evil! The people would never stand for it!!


    3. Guns, gays and abortions made this country great! Let’s keep all three.

  3. Leaving aside legitimate moral debate about the humanity (or not) of human fetuses at various stages of development, libertarians can kiss hopes of relevance goodbye. Opposition to early term abortion (incl morning after pills) is a non-starter. If libertarians support RP and make him part of their brand strategy they’re going to become associated with this POV. Thanks for the few minutes of hope, though.

    1. So what other legitimate moral debates should Rand Paul and libertarians abandon to make themselves more palatable?

      1. Not all legitimate moral debates need to be political debates.

      2. Trolling troll is trolling.

  4. I have a problem with the term moment of conception. There is no such thing. Conception is a process that begins with insemination and ends with implantation and it usually takes about a week. Even at that point the early cell divisions are programmed into the oocyte. It takes several days after insemination before the parental haploid DNA combines into a new separate genome and starts transcribing proteins.

    1. The moment where the sperm penetrates the egg is generally referred to as “the moment of conception.” I realize that this is perhaps not a medically precise term but it’s the moment where anti-abortion absolutists believe that a new human life begins. That’s the ground they’ve staked out, so that’s where we have to argue from.

      1. The moment where the sperm penetrates the egg is generally referred to as “the moment of conception.”

        Is there another point that would be more accurate? I can’t think of any. As Mensan says, this is where the process of conception starts.

        1. Implantation?

          1. Implantation?

            I go back and forth on that thought as well. Just because an egg is fertilized does not mean it will implant (docs can correct me if wrong). But does the process start at conception (sperm entering egg) or at implantation? I really don’t know.

            1. IANA MD (or even close), but there are a lot of zygotes* that don’t implant.

              *18% based on first internet hit I could find, YMMV.

              1. *18% based on first internet hit I could find, YMMV.

                IIRC, it is a small percentage that implants. That is where I would put the “bright line” for when life starts, and therefore I would not consider the morning after pill as an abortion. But that is me.

            2. Also, that’s why Catholics oppose hormone-based birth control; it does nothing to prevent ovulation or fertilization, but does prevent implantation.

        2. IIRC, implantation is where pregnancy begins according to biologists. But some of the most vocal people in this debate have other concerns and definitions.

        3. the parental haploid DNA combines into a new separate genome and starts transcribing proteins.

          I would think this would be it.

  5. Which is worse: the practice of abortion, or the consequences of prohibiting it?

    1. The answer depends on one’s POV. Hardcore right-to-lifers view every abortion (and they include morning-after pills as abortions) as a murder. So for them, any other considerations are a very distant second.

      1. It doesnt even matter where you draw the line.

        Conception/implantation/transcription of proteins/brain activity/viability/birth/algebra, it doesnt matter.

        After the line is murder and the “consequences of prohibiting it” are the same as the consequences of prohibiting other murders. And are probably something we just have to deal with.

        The entire thing is an argument over where to draw the line. What is life? What is human life?

        There is probably a nice scientific answer, but personally, I prefer to err on the side of protecting the borderline cases.

  6. The same poll which show younger voters supporting gay marriage also show them becoming more skeptical of abortion. You can’t simply lump these issues together.

    As for majority support for legal abortion, the polls also show majority support for that other “cultural issue,” gun control. Just like a befuddled moderate group wants to ban some abortions and allow others (if the poll is phrased so as to describe the majority of abortions the voters generally want to ban them, it’s the exceptional case of rape or incest that gets their legalization juice flowing), so a befuddled moderate group wants “common sense” bans on scary guns and more background checks.

    If Paul is supposed to be “moderate” on abortion, why not on guns as well?

    1. Befuddled or not, politics is the all about compromise. We’ll probably end up banning the “icky” abortions (late term for sure), and more reliance on RU-486.

      1. If so, then we can look to a “common-sense compromise” of the gun issue, too. And the budget issue – a fair mix of spending cuts and tax increases, including tightened penalties for those who try to move their capital out of the country. All in the name of moderation!

  7. His position on abortion is a major strike against him for me. The question has never been whether a fetus is the beginning of human life. It has always been when should political rights be given to a fetus that bring the full force of state coercion to bare on a woman’s choice to go through child birth and assume all if the risks thereof. Paul’s use of state coercion depends upon the assumption that a woman ceases to have the right to choose how to use her iwn bidy if she is imoregnated. Why does he believe pregnancy suspends self ownership?

    1. I’m uncomfortable with the notion that it’s ok to kill certain classes of human beings because they are inconvenient to others.

      I don’t think fetuses are human beings. I can’t imagine believing that they are AND believing it’s ok to kill them.

      For most libertarian believers in the humanity of the fetus, self-ownership isn’t suspended but is overidden by the rights of the fetus; not like it can just pack up and go elsewhere.

    2. Why does he believe pregnancy suspends self ownership?

      Do you believe that a fetus is a human being? If so, do you believe that human being has the right of self ownership?

      1. One might argue that the right to self ownership comes with the responsibility to take care of oneself. Children don’t even have full rights of self ownership (for this very reason, I think), if they did, parents couldn’t tell them what to do.

  8. Don’t get lost in the weeds. Rand is a good for the country – lets take him if we can get him, right to the White House. There will never be a perfect candidate.

  9. Most disturbing part for me is that Santorum came in third. And yet people keep telling me his career is dead.

    1. Santorum is very popular amongst right-wing evangelicals, despite being a cracker-eating papist. About the only thing the religious-right has going for them is the religious-left is just as bad. I wish they would just hurry up and go away already.

  10. I like Rand Paul, and I am not one of these people that just assumes that anti-abortion people are arguing in bad faith, but this is a load of crap:

    what science has long known- that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward

    Science can tell us nothing about the moral status of a developing organism of the human species or of what legal protection it is entitled to. To try to frame it as a purely scientific question is either dishonest or very ignorant.

    Also, there is a difference between “human life” and “a human life”. Human life is a continuous process with no real bright line delineating a beginning. An individual human’s life does begin at conception, but that still says nothing about the moral status of the cell or clump of cells at any particular point in development.

  11. I feel abortion should be legal, but I bare no ill will towards those who disagree, because I empathize with where you come from. I just don’t believe that a fetus should have the same legal status as a baby.

  12. This is the calmest, most good-faith discussion on abortion that I have ever seen on H&R.

    This discussion is good for me personally, because I find the topic of abortion to be my weakest area. I am not comfortable with any of the “solutions”.

  13. The problem I have with giving fetuses and zygotes equal protection is the unforeseen consequences.

    So let’s say we ban doctors from performing abortions. Women will still have unwanted pregnancies, and I don’t think anyone expects them all to willingly bring those babies to term.

    So what are we going to do about it?

    Is every miscarriage a potential crime that needs to be investigated? If so, does anyone think that wont lead to more women avoiding or delaying prenatal care, so as to avoid suspicion if something goes wrong early on? If a woman has multiple miscarriages, does that increase her suspicion?

    Then we get into behavior. Will equal protection lead of fetuses lead to the outlawing of women smoking or drinking during their pregnancy? What about women who don’t know they are pregnant, will they be expected to monitor this so as to be sure they aren’t harming a fetus? Will I be liable for serving (alcohol) a pregnant woman, like I would be for serving an inebriated person?

    None of these consequences sound very libertarian, but they do sound necessary if we are going to take the idea of “equal protection” seriously.

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