Rand Paul

Rand Paul: Playing to Everyone, Going Too Far Off on Foreign Policy, Lost the Ron Base?

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In a relentless stream of Rand Paul-talk in the past 48 hours, three bits stood out for width of their perspective or freshness of their data. McKay Coppins at Buzzfeed reads the Paul campaign strategy as trying to be everything to everyone in his Party for maximal potential appeal.

Some points from Coppins:

On one side, there are those in Rand world who argue his best bet is to unite his core base of libertarian activists with elements of the GOP establishment and traditional donor class. In the other camp are advisers who say conservative evangelicals — many of whom share the liberty movement's growing sense that Republican elites and mainstream moderates hold them in contempt — are a more natural fit.

Paul has spent time reaching out to both camps in recent years — alternating emphases with the ebb and flow of the ongoing debate within his inner-circle — but many have told BuzzFeed News over the past year that they expected the candidate to eventually pick one approach or the other. Instead, several sources said, it appears he and his chief strategist, Doug Stafford, have decided to pursue both strategies at the same time.

It certainly true that, even if the balance of his appeal is not across all camps equally—one can't say he's giving as much to evangelicals or the modal Romney fan (if such still exists) than he does to "liberty" elements—he seems to be trying to give at least a plausible excuse for why any given Republican should be able to see fit to vote for him, even if he might not be their favorite.

See his federalist approach to drug policy that still sneers at actual drug use or full-on legalization, a gay marriage tack of being against federal involvement while still talking of moral crisis and personal opposition, and a foreign policy on the surface both loud and proud against Radical Islam (with no specifics about who gets fought, where, and how) while opposed to nation-building.

To some former anti-empire admirers, Paul has gone too far to the standard right on foreign policy to deserve any liberty support. Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com makes that case in the Los Angeles Times, noting changes toward more hawkishness toward Iran, Russia, and ISIS and a shift from a principled anti-all-foreign-aid stance.

And the 538 website is sure it has found the smoking numbers proving that Rand Paul is indeed, at least so far, losing the Ron Paul base, since he is not as of now polling with numbers as high in early states as Ron Paul won in the actual elections in 2012:

The most obvious path for Paul to win the GOP nomination is to build on the 21 percent of the vote his father earned in Iowa in 2012, and the 23 percent Paul Sr. picked up in New Hampshire that year. In a divided primary field, that might not seem so difficult; 25 percent might be enough to win both states. And with wins in the first two contests, Paul might be able to ride the Big Mo' to the nomination.

But right now, Paul isn't anywhere close to where his father ended up in either state in 2012. Paul is polling at a little less than 9 percent in Iowa and nearly 11 percent in New Hampshire. That's far closer to the percentage of the vote earned by Paul Sr. in both states during his 2008 bid for the presidency, which was far less relevant than his 2012 run.

I'm not confident this proves what it asserts as far as predicting next year's vote—there is plenty of time between now and the vote for enthusiasm for Rand Paul to manifest itself, with old Paul heads and others—but it's a depressing start for the campaign.

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  1. “And the 538 website is sure it has found the smoking numbers proving that Rand Paul is indeed, at least so far, losing the Ron Paul base, since he is not as of now polling with numbers as high in early states as Ron Paul won in the actual elections in 2012:”

    Maybe the people that voted for his father sense that he doesn’t have the integrity of his father. I’m trying to figure out where exactly the platform of Rand Paul intersects with the platform of people who want to limit the power of government. Brian, I’m planning on voting for the candidate that is pro-choice, against the drug war and a ground war against ISIS, and for reducing the size of the military. Who are you voting for?

    1. Is there a pro-choice candidate for the Republican nomination?

    2. “I’m planning on voting for the candidate that is pro-choice, against the drug war and a ground war against ISIS, and for reducing the size of the military.”

      You’re voting for Gary Johnson?

      1. He adheres to a philosophy which caused the deaths of over 100,000,000 during the 20th Century alone.

        Gary Johnson isn’t murdery enough for a Socialist.

    3. I reckon after nearly 16 years of basic incompetence, there is a vast swath of the American public who are itching to vote for basic common sense that is clearly presented.
      I think that will be Rand Paul’s appeal and what will set him apart.

  2. It just seems like everything about him is blown up to extreme proportions by the media.

    If Rand Paul is in favor of verifying that Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons capability before he’ll sign off on Obama’s treaty in the Senate, then he’s in favor of capitulating to Iran.

    If he thinks gay marriage should be decided at the state level, then he’s either selling his libertarianism short, or he’s a radical in favor of discriminating against gays in the name of religion.

    If he’s being moderate on any given issue or tries to explain himself and why he thinks something, then he’s too wishy-washy to be a serious contender for President of the United States.

    Yeah, even his moderation is blown way out of proportion by the media.

    Everybody’s so scared of him. Hillary is scared of him. The establishment Republicans are scared of him. He must be doing something right.

    1. There’s a lot of truth in what you say, but if RP tries to be all things to all people he will no longer be so frightening to the Dems or to establishment Reps. If he continues to water down his positions, he won’t be as strong a threat — similar to that big sigh of relief you heard from the Dems and establishment Republicans when Cruz decided to announce his candidacy at a Christian university.

      1. Here’s the thing, though. He was never a hard-line libertarian and never claimed to be.

        1. True, but perception matters. If some misinformed people *thought* he was at least more libertarian than he ends up being, then when confronted with reality they may lose enthusiasm. It is about managing expectations.

    2. If Rand Paul is in favor of verifying that Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons capability before he’ll sign off on Obama’s treaty in the Senate, then he’s in favor of capitulating to Iran.

      Actually, no. It means he’s simultaneously in favor of capitulating to Iran and bound and determined to scuttle any agreement.

  3. The further he gets from Ron, the better he’ll look.

  4. “he seems to be trying to give at least a plausible excuse for why any given Republican should be able to see fit to vote for him”

    It’s almost as if he is trying to win their votes. Mercy! We can’t tolerate that!

  5. See his federalist approach to drug policy

    There’s a strong case for a federalist approach to things in general. A government with the power to force a state to make something legal has the power to force a ban, just like what we have now. I’m not 100% sure on the issue myself — I want the federal government to have the power to ban something like, say, slavery — but I’m willing to accept a situation where, say, New York has legal heroin and bans automatic weapons, and New Hampshire is the reverse.

    that still sneers at actual drug use or full-on legalization,

    There’s nothing unlibertarian about sneering at drug use. It’s unlibertarian to use force to stop people from doing so. It may be politically imprudent to offend the drug users, but on net I think Rand will probably do better winning converts with a “people have the right to do stupid things if it only harms themselves” rather than reinforcing the already-converted with a “drugs are good” message.

    a gay marriage tack of being against federal involvement while still talking of moral crisis and personal opposition,

    Not as good as a “take the government out of marriage entirely” position, but nothing wrong with it. Nor is there anything wrong with personal opposition. I think that a man marrying a woman is taking a huge, crazy gamble in the current US legal environment, but I’m not going to say he can’t do it.

    1. A true federalist will, in many areas, be functionally indistinguishable from a libertarian as a federal politician. If Paul wants the federal government to be agnostic on marriage, and all his power is at the federal level, then it matters only a little* bit what he thinks Kentucky should do.

      * Presidents and big name federal politicians can influence opinion, so if he is out there talking about how awful gay marriage is, then it probably will have some impact on what Kentucky does.

  6. and a foreign policy on the surface both loud and proud against Radical Islam

    As he should be.

    (with no specifics about who gets fought, where, and how)

    It’s almost two years until he would be inaugurated if elected. A lot can change in that time.

    while opposed to nation building.

    I was under the impression most folks here were against that, as well.

    To some former anti-empire admirers,

    Anyone who thinks the US has an “empire” should not be taken seriously. And speaking of people not to be taken seriously…

    Paul has gone too far to the standard right on foreign policy to deserve any liberty support. Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com

    Wow, Justin Raimondo has spoken? Antiwar.com has spoken? Well, that totally clinches things, doesn’t it?

  7. The reason.com staff’s knee-jerk support in favor of Paul without taking a serious look at his positions is sickening.

    Why, I found three articles written in the last 24 hours on here that dealt with a different subject altogether!

  8. I don’t see why liberty and ethical justice shouldn’t appeal to the entire fucking galaxy- much less to the entire spectrum of voters in a country wracked with hideous leadership.

    Simple but powerful political philosophies related directly to human rights don’t require proportioning and designation.

    It is possible to offer fairness to all; quit regulating the hell out of our lives and bedrooms with thousands upon thousands of goddamn laws.

    Problem is, in a country where fairness is warped and massaged into a hundred different forms it will come as shock to many who operate from bellicose and aggrandizing political platforms that fairness is, in fact, an uncomplicated universal principle that forms the bedrock of the open society.

    1. I recently heard an EconTalk with Johnathan Haidt. He has this theory of moral foundations that says people’s moral compasses are influenced by six key things:

      http://www.moralfoundations.org/

      1) Care vs harm
      2) Fairness vs cheating
      3) Loyalty vs betrayal
      4) Authority vs subversion
      5) Sanctity vs degradation
      6) Liberty vs oppression

      I haven’t read his book yet but from what I have heard so far, this idea at least passes my smell test.

      You and I value liberty above the other five (and we may not really value some of the other five at all). But a lot of people place much more value on care, fairness, sanctity, loyalty, and respect for authority. They may like liberty, but not at the expense of other moral precepts that are more important in their eyes.

      1. “They may like liberty, but not at the expense of other moral precepts that are more important in their eyes”

        Well put. A lot of hell and brim-fire has rolled from the shouting lips of progressive and conservative evangelists on the harms associated with too much liberty.

      2. Libertarians are also quite big on fairness.

        It’s unfair for property to be arbitrarily seized and redistributed. It’s unfair for compensation not to be paid, and at the market price.
        It’s unfair for regulators to bias the market in favor of some companies. It’s unfair for government to subsidize some people and not others. It’s unfair for government to pick winners and losers.

        Free markets depend on liberty but they also depend heavily on equal enforcement of the law, and laws that treat people equally.

  9. Appearing to be less libertarian than he actually is might be what he needs to get financial backing from some mainstream Republican groups.

    I don’t care if Rand Paul isn’t the perfect libertarian candidate. He’s almost the perfect moderate libertarian candidate which is the only sort of libertarian that stands a chance of either moving the Republican party in a libertarian direction or winning the general election.

    I think that many mainstream Republicans realize that he’s potentially the best general election candidate in the field, precisely because of his libertarian cred. They just want to be assured that he’s not crazy like his father.

    So maybe we get someone who won’t rock the boat too much, but make incremental progressin the right direction. You were hoping to elect an actual libertarian? Hahahahahahaha.

    1. You were hoping to elect an actual libertarian?

      Shortbus Libertarians: dedicated enough to eat Ron Paul boogers.

  10. My anecdotal evidence is that a lot of non-Republicans changed their registration to Republican in 2008 and 2012 just to vote for Ron Paul, and then switched back to Libertarian or Independent when he was treated so shabbily. Maybe these same switchers are waiting again to 2016 to switch so they can vote again in the GOP primaries but their support for RP doesn’t yet show in the polls?

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