Rand Paul is showing how much he's bucking Republican Party powers that be in a non-ideological way this week, as Bloomberg News reports:
Several presidential candidates are likely to sign contracts allowing them to simultaneously receive voter profiles from both the Republican National Committee and i360, a rival data warehouse managed by the political network associated with Koch Industries. Paul, however, seems to be following a different path—one that will allow him to maintain full control of any data collected by his campaign or affiliated super-PAC and set up a distinct power base beyond 2016 entirely independent of the Republican Party.
Paul is the only one of the party's candidates trying to assemble a full-fledged presidential campaign who has refused to sign a so-called data agreement with the RNC. This is a standard arrangement in both parties, designed to permit candidates to benefit from one of few durable resources in American politics: a national party's voter database. In exchange for access to it, candidates pledge that after the election they will enrich the database by returning intelligence gathered on the electorate through their interactions with individual voters.
The article gets into some nitty-gritty about the rivalry between the GOP data machine and the Kochs:
Although both databases are assembled atop publicly available voter-registration records, they offer differing strengths. The RNC has maintained its voter file for a quarter-century, constantly replenishing it with information about voter behavior and attitudes on candidates and issues collected through campaign canvasses and phone banks. Want to know which Iowa voters told McCain-Palin volunteers that bailouts were their greatest concern? There's only one place to find it.
The much-newer i360 has little of that historical data, but sustained by the Kochs' seemingly limitless funds, boasts of having acquired a wide range of consumer profiles and a growing team of data scientists developing topical predictive models from them. Looking for probable 2016 caucus-goers who are likely to think the Islamic State is a greater concern than civil liberties? You should expect to see it offered from i360 rather than the RNC.
Why might Paul want to risk alienating Party powers-that-be about this?
Paul has vowed to bring new supporters into the Republican primary process, including young voters unlikely to have been contacted much by previous Republican candidates. If Paul succeeds in doing so, the granular intelligence his campaign assembles about that coalition—knowledge of individual issue preferences, and contact information like cell-phone numbers—will become a unique asset in American politics and one he will be happy not to have to return to the RNC.
Paul's own campaign could theoretically acquire any data collected by the super-PAC at any point, either through purchase or by trading something of comparable value'….
Complete control over all the data his campaign collects could make Paul a power broker in future party primaries, and sustain a career as a perpetual candidate—with a constant implied threat that he could do it either inside the party or outside of it….When asked to explain Rand Paul's resistance to signing a data agreement with the RNC, spokesman Sergio Gor responded by e-mail, "We'll pass on this story."
The "outside of it" part seems a stretch to start drama where there isn't any. Anything is possible, but my background understanding of Paul family world would lead me to say the third party hope/fear is very unlikely, and I'd be surprised if he'd even use the explicit or implicit threat of it in a deliberate strategic way.
But Pauls do like to have their own outside-Party base of donors and potential donors to help fund any one of a variety of organizations, crusades, events, or projects that aren't specifically about running for office. I suspect this is way more about that than it is about third party runs, or threats of same.
In other Rand Paul news:
• He very disappointingly in a hearing grilling Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday quotes a statement from Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei grossly out of context in order to buttress an argument that the Iranian nuke deal is questionable and dangerous. Bad form. Paul quoted Khamenei as saying "The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. They know it's not true."
Whew, scary, huh? Paul neglected to quote the next sentence, in which Khameini clarified: "We had a fatwa, declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks."
Paul did begin with a pro forma acknowledgement that negotiations are good and all that, at least compared to war, but following that up with frankly propagandistic anti-Iranian misquoting blunts the value of that. See my July Reason feature on Paul's often inscrutable foreign policy.
• He's introducing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and to arm our military on their bases. Business Insider notes a pattern of legislating over "stories of the week," not a bad strategy for a presidential candidate seeking earned media that might win over specific issue voters.
• Paul's prime SuperPac, America's Liberty, with only two seven-figure donors (Jeff Yass of Susquehanna Partners and George Macricostas, founder of data center company RagingWire), is underperforming every other GOP candidates', even Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal.