Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has some interesting backroom reporting and analysis on Rand Paul's rise to GOP prominence. Paul, Cillizza notes:
is still regarded as a sort of amusing sideshow by many "serious" political practitioners….[but] Republicans (and even some Democrats) who would dismiss Paul as simply a clone of his father—both in terms of his policies and his political skills—are badly misjudging him and his potential.
Cillizza then quoted the Lexington Herald-Leader reporting on an Atlanta fundraiser for Paul, in which he pulled $150,000 for his next Senate campaign. Important detail: "Among the 35 investors in attendance was Jack Oliver, who ran George W. Bush's fundraising operations in 2000 and 2004."
Rand Paul, then, has mainstream money appeal his dad never had. Cillizza's analysis of the meaning of this:
Paul undoubtedly hopes that some of these whales — the major donors and bundlers of campaign cash — sign on with him. But, even if they don't, he wants to make clear to them—as well as to the broader Republican establishment—that he is a) not his father and b) not scary. Paul knows he won't ever be the "establishment" candidate (that will be either Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal or Marco Rubio) but he also knows that there is a big difference between the establishment being vehemently opposed to him as the nominee and being neutral about that prospect. Paul is working to allay fears from the establishment so that in the event he is the pick, there won't be any problem in uniting the party behind his candidacy.
The buildup to the 2016 race is going to be a tense and vexing one for libertarian-leaning folk who still care about electoral politics; it seems likely that Paul will be the presidential candidate of our lifetime combining strong libertarian leanings and the actual possibility of success.
But the more he scrabbles for that success, the more likely he is to upset his libertarian fans by refusing to take the most hardcore possible line against empire or against government in general. Will it be a great thing that someone as good on so many issues as Paul is actually catching serious fire with a major party? Or will it just be a maddening thing to see a "great libertarian hope" disappoint libertarians in all the ways he likely will have to on the path to trying to win a major party presidential nomination? (See for some possible areas of purist conflict: Iran sanctions, Edward Snowden)
My Sunday New York Times article from last year on Rand Paul and the liberty wing as the future of the Republican Party.
UPDATE: Politico today with report on the specifics of Paul's Senate fundraising, money that could be shifted to a presidential campaign if necessary. Paul has:
raised over a million dollars for his Senate campaign fund in the last quarter of 2013, leaving him with $1.7 million in a federal account that could be transferred over for a presidential run….
In addition to the $1.7 million Paul has in the 2016 account, his political action committee, RAND PAC, also has $500,000 on hand….