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


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.