Rand Paul's SuperPACs Aren't Worried About Thursday's Fox News GOP Presidential Debate. Here's Why.

Paul must be himself, be ready for attacks, be substantive, be libertarian, but shouldn't try to make any explosive gestures.


While there is no particular reason to believe either money or polling right now will dictate what happens when people start voting next year, it is widely believed by many that Rand Paul's presidential campaign is stagnant or floundering, and that tomorrow night's debate is a real opportunity for him to do something explosive or amazing to revive it.

The people behind three prominent Rand Paul-supporting SuperPACs don't agree.

Jesse Benton is with the PAC America's Liberty. Benton was also a majordomo in Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign (and was indicted this morning for alleged campaign law violations and lying to the FBI related to supposed payoffs to Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson during that campaign). Benton rejects the notion that the debates are make-or-break for Paul's campaign.

Paul and Paul's outside supporters have, Benton said in a phone interview on Monday, built a plan that's been years in the works, "and we don't need anything exceptional out of the debates. If people are saying Rand needs to wow or swing out of his shoes" in the debate, "I disagree, and it's not part of the plan."

As long as Paul can be "crisp and prepared and acquit himself well" among the other nine on stage tomorrow night, "that's all we need—a solid performance out of Rand."

Benton believes it's to Paul's benefit in the crowded debate stage that he "is able to differentiate from other candidates just by being himself, being Rand Paul, solid, articulate, and talking about ideas. But he doesn't have to have some over-the-top tremendous" moment "with memorable takeaways and punchlines." Paul's plan, Benton says, is a "long haul approach, not worried about the day in and day out of the horse race."

Benton's America's Liberty PAC is focused, he says, on an "integrated multimedia messaging and advertising program", with "digital, TV, and direct mail." It's planning to hold back most of its spending for closer to actual voting, when it is more likely to do real good, "targeted with real time data flow from the field."

Matt Kibbe, formerly of the grassroots free market advocacy group FreedomWorks, is now working for a Rand Paul SuperPAC called Concerned American Voters, focusing almost entirely on door-to-door and get out the vote efforts in the important early state of Iowa. "We are focused strictly on grassroots organization and get out the vote; we've already made half a million face-to-face contacts and phone calls in Iowa, and we think the key to an insurgent like Paul will be who shows up to vote on caucus day in Iowa." While they have chosen to make Iowa their main battleground, Kibbe says they may expand into Nevada as well.

Paul is likely to be a target of his opponents on debate night, Kibbe believes. Paul "needs to anticipate an inevitable attack from one of the establishment people, like maybe Christie, demagoguing on the NSA and surveillance." Paul should use the debate "as a platform to distinguish himself on civil liberties, as a different kind of candidate."

Kibbe notes Paul rejected the idea he should metaphorically set his hair on fire for attention, but "he can distinguish himself as a guy with policy reform cred, the one guy with a serious tax reform plan, someone who actually has substantive ideas on how to reform government."

Paul needn't explode out of the gate, Kibbe agrees; "he needs to not look for some silver bullet dramatic gesture, because he has substance to demonstrate." An "adult" campaign need not descend to "Trump levels" for attention.

A third Paul-backing SuperPAC is Purple PAC, run by Edward Crane, a former Libertarian Party higher-up in its 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns, and founder and from 1977 to 2013 boss of the Cato Institute, a leading libertarian policy think tank.

In a letter to potential donors, Crane wrote "this is an asymmetric campaign.  $120 million in Jeb Bush's coffers will not have the impact of $1 million of social media in Rand's accounts…most of our efforts will be social media – Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook and such."

Crane, as befits a man with his libertarian movement background, thinks libertarianism is the key to Paul's success. While granting Paul is not a perfect libertarian, Crane sees this campaign as "the best thing a libertarian has had in terms of a serious [presidential] campaign since ever." The key, says Crane, is that "he's a candidate who believes in the free enterprise system and is opposed to us being the world's policeman. That to me is enough reason" why libertarians should support him.

Crane thinks that outside-the-campaign messaging efforts are vital since Paul's actual campaign "is being run by conservatives; they instinctively don't agree with his libertarianism so they downplay it." Crane sees Paul's current failure to climb in polls as "completely consistent with an unwillingness to discuss issues from a libertarian perspective."

"I'd love to grab Paul by the lapels" and tell him this, Crane says, but given the nature of campaign finance laws and the rules about unaffiliated SuperPACS, "I could go to jail for doing that, which is just absurd."

He had lunch with Paul years ago, before the official campaign or SuperPAC, Crane recalls, in which Paul expressed some frustration knowing that potential opponents would be ganging up on him on his foreign policy. Crane believes Paul can shine with his distinct foreign policy, since "50 percent of Republicans watching this debate agree with" Paul on not getting us quickly into more war in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Crane gives some credence to complaints that Paul as a retail campaigner is insufficiently positive, enthusiastic, and solicitous toward supporters or would-be supporters. Still, in this current Trump moment where the choices are either "a lunatic or business-as-usual Republicanism or a new approach" like Paul's, Paul still has great potential to shine.

"All the outreach to blacks is genuine and serious, he's the only guy saying the NSA shouldn't be spying on everyone, there are lots of things very attractive" about him, particularly to the independents who any GOP candidate will need to win over to have a chance at victory in November 2016.

"We call it the Purple PAC," Crane says, because states neither overwhelmingly red or blue "are the answer" to victory for Republicans. "You have to win a good number of those 10 or 12 states to win, and to win them you need to win independents, and Paul leads among independents. This is something the campaign is overlooking, not using as a campaign strategy, and they should."

For the debates, Crane thinks Paul can distinguish himself by stressing points such as that ISIS wouldn't exist if not for our prior meddling in the Middle East; and making it clear that he understands and supports free markets and civil liberties more consistently and intelligently than the others.

Crane says libertarians should understand, even if put off by things like Paul emphasizing the war on Planned Parenthood or sanctuary cities, that overall "he's very smart—if you saw the drone filibuster, it was like a college course in the Constitution—and he shares our worldview for the most part."

"We got a viable candidate against war and for free markets, and that's all that needs be said." Some of those social conservative nods are "unfortunate," Crane says, "not the way I would have done it, but he's the one putting it out on the line and I admire him for that. I just think he's got too many conservatives involved" in his campaign.

NEXT: The Political Process Has Many Problems, But the Fact That Activists Have a Microphone Is Not One of Them

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  1. “Explosive gestures”?

    come again?

    1. That reminds me…who’s standing next to Christie? Because if he eats Chipotle for lunch tomorrow, I feel sorry for them.

      1. “who’s standing next to Christie?”

        Christie, of course.

      2. I feel sorry for anybody who has chipotle for lunch.

      3. Christie is gonna stand next to everybody. Booya!

  2. Did you say Rand Paul is told not to worry about explosive gestures at the GOP debate? Rand Paul planned to use explosive gestures at the GOP debate? Rand Paul planted explosives at the first GOP debate? I knew Rand Paul wanted the terrorists to win!

    1. Koch gave him those bombs to help boost the stock market

  3. I rather suspect the problem Paul will have with this so called debate is that he’ll get the same treatment that Ron Paul and Gary Johnson did in 2012. He’ll be asked one or two questions while the establishment and reality TV candidates get asked four or five.

    1. i dunno ive seen him get pretty testy on some news shows. if he can channel that anger in a controlled way he could turn this into a win regardless of how the moderators treat him. as many people as like trump at least twice as many would love to see him get smacked down (and as he’s the frontrunner currently, becoming like his nemesis would help just name recognition-wise)

      1. The media wants clownishness. That means Trump, Jeb, and Porky get the most attention.

        1. Jeb is clownish? I had no idea, seriously.

    2. Trump has the most to lose by being asked too many questions. His entire platform is anti-immigration, which won’t translate to other issues.

      “How would you, as Pres, deal with fast-track trade negotiations?” Ans: by making sure they were tied to closing the border.”

      “How would you deal with mid-east terrorist movements?” Ans: I’d deport rapist Mexicans over there so they would disrupt them instead of us.”

      “What’s your take on Cecil’s death? Ans: Make domestic big game hunting licenses available in our own country with illegals as the game.

      His one-trick-pony approach can only go so far.

      1. Trump can only take the immigration hobby-horse so far, but he can apply the xenophobia to other issues, like trade (which he has done repeatedly already) and foreign policy.

        1. The problem with applying the xenophobia angle to trade is that Trump products are made with offshore labor. All nine of the other candidates are just longing to spring THAT line on him.

          1. I assume he’ll respond with some bullshit about how he has to do it to compete, and that if he’s president he’d change the laws so companies can bring jobs back here. And a good number of people will eat it up.

          2. “The problem with applying the xenophobia angle to trade is that Trump products are made with offshore labor.”

            What? No, that’s completely wrong. Almost all of Trump’s assets come from real estate holdings.

            A small amount comes from the Miss Universe pageant. I guess you could make the case that portion depends on offshore labor. 😉

            1. Sorry if I was unclear about what “Trump products” meant.

              Trump markets a wide array of “Trump”-branded products purchased by… I honestly can’t imagine who. People with way more money than taste, I assume. Clothes, aftershave, accessories, etc.

              Those are made in places like China and Mexico. Trump’s lame response is that he has to do this to “compete”. Bullshit, of course — he’s selling $80 sweaters, not three-for-$5 Walmart crap.

              The fact that Trump doesn’t even rely on these products for a significant percentage of his income and still opts to produce them in China and Mexico tells you everything you need to know about his sincerity. Just in case you couldn’t tell that from the fact that he was vocally pro-offshoring until he decided to run for President.

          3. Dan Bongard said:

            “The problem with applying the xenophobia angle to trade is that Trump products are made with offshore labor. All nine of the other candidates are just longing to spring THAT line on him.”

            I’m not a Trump apologist but I believe Trump’s main (only) point is against illegal immigrants. What does that have to do with importing foreign products? Foreign products are made by foreigners in foreign lands, which is what The Donald seems to be advocating.

            1. First of all, I was replying to a claim that Trump would blame foreigners as his answer to every question.

              Secondly, your belief that he has only complained about illegal immigrants is wrong. He is currently against offshoring, too, although of course he was for it before he was against it.

        2. In other words, Trump can adopt Bernie’s platform just minus the deodorant stuff.

          1. Well, at least on trade and immigration (although with more over-the-top and bigoted language), yeah. But I imagine his position on foreign policy would be a lot more combative than Sanders

          2. +1 strong enough for a man.

          3. Great article on FEE comparing Trump and Bernie…logical and based on founding texts – too bad most wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between Soviet communism, Chinese communism, Marxism, Fascism, Socialism, Capitalism, you name it…


      2. How do you know Trump doesn’t have a bottomless barrel of ad hoc, disconnected, quirky issues he’s prepared to bring up? He’s at the point where he can start to dictate the agenda. If he decides food trucks or ferrets is an important issue, all the campaigns are going to have to treat it as important, because it’s all the media will talk about.

        1. Oh god, you’re right. Maybe I’ll see if I can find work offshore for the next year.

        2. Just think about how many Mexicans we can deport if we just train ferrets to run our food trucks.

  4. Seems sensible to me. Paul is capable of discussing political ideas intelligently and concisely in a way that only one or two other people on that stage can.

  5. Everyone has their PUMA’s to deal with.

    1. At my age, it’s mostly COUGARs.

      1. Golden years, baby!

        1. Can’t be, gold doesn’t tarnish.

          1. You dummies don’t even realize that comment was meant for the Walker post preceding this one!

            1. Wow, you really are always first!

  6. If the problem is conservative campaign managers, why not get rid of them? Doesn’t each candidate choose their own campaign staff?

    1. Becase it soesn’t seem like it is a problem to Paul, just the leader of the PAC who said it.

  7. Based on his current twitter feed and campaign spam emails, I would expect him to talk about Planned Parenthood until he’s blue in the face.

    1. It’s a winning strategery!

      1. “It’s a winning strategery!”

        You know the Left really made fun of George Bush’s mispronunciations. And much like Sarah Palin seeing Alaska from her home, this one actually came from a Saturday Live sketch in 2000. But he still won the election.

        1. I thought Alaska was her home.

          1. yep,

            Of course the joke was that she could see Russia from her home in Alaska, She never said that, Tina Fey did.

    2. Yeah. I might be the most pro-life libertarian on here, but Paul needs to cut this shit out. Jesus, it’s annoying as hell.

      1. You know, you don’t have to be in favor of making abortion illegal to find government funding of Planned Parenthood inappropriate.

        And you don’t have to be in favor of jailing abortion doctors to find Planned Parenthood’s behavior disgusting.

        Not funding Planned Parenthood from the government is very libertarian. Pointing out how disgusting their practices are to get the funding ended is just good politics.

        1. I agree, but I think Paul has focused way too much on the issue, as important as it is to me. Criminal justice reforms, attacking the NSA and Executive overreach in general, and tackling entitlements should get just as much attention from him.

  8. Paul needs to lay low, hope he gets a question or two about drug legalization, the security state or sentencing reform and then get the fuck out of there. Nothing good can happen this far out to a candidate that is top-tier. There will be one or two candidates that will all but eliminate himself be being a blowhard. he needs to play the attrition game until at least November.

    1. He does need to come across as knowledgeable, but you are quite correct that the real danger is eliminating yourself as a candidate by trying to hard to distinguish yourself.

      My suspicion is that Trump will blow up tomorrow night. He’ll try to play it low key, but the other candidates will be trying to light his fuse. He’s got a very short fuse.

      1. If Trump saying outrageous and idiotic things were the prerequisite for him losing support, then surely he would already be long gone.

      2. I doubt the other candidates will be trying to get Trump to blow up. Trump’s “mad as hell” act is the only reason anyone’s paying attention to him in the first place. Plus, they’ll know that whatever manufactured outrageousness Trump manages to deploy will steal headlines away from them.

        1. No, it won’t steal their headline, because they’ll be part of it. It’ll be Trump & Whoever.

          1. Yeah, but with them in the “insider who Just Doesn’t Get It” position. Who wants that?

            1. The insiders who “just don’t get it”, of course. They are legion, and they like it that they don’t get it, whatever “it” is.

  9. I’ll continue to support Rand because he’s the best candidate. But I’m not going to be disappointed if he just stays in the Senate. It would almost be a relief. You know, I’m sort of torn if I really want him to be POTUS or just stay in the Senate, where at least he won’t get libertarians blamed for every single fucking thing that happens on the planet for the next 50 years.

    1. Yeah, and Senator Paul doesn’t have to compromise as much in order to get elected.

      On the other hand, statistically speaking, running Paul for GOP minimizes the chances of President Clinton II, compared to any other Republican, and that’s a definite plus.

      1. Hillary Clinton seems to be minimizing the chances of President Clinton II just fine on her own

        1. Sounds like slick Willy has a Donald up his sleeve. I’m sure he would love the prospect of being the first first guy and running around the capital squeezing the tushies of nubile young interns. Almost like the good old days.

          I don’t think the plan is for Donald to win the nomination. The plan is for him to kill off all the other candidates except for Jeb and then bow out and endorse Jeb, who is probably the only GOP candidate who Hillary can beat.

          Yes, I’m a fucking genius, I know.

          1. Yeah, you’re probably right. Fucking genius.

            /Marvin – Paranoid Android

          2. It is more likely that Trump will run as an independent, and draw votes away from the GOP that way. His appeal is solely to disaffected low-information voters — the same pool of people Perot drew from back in the day.

            1. Perot drew a lot from them, but he drew a lot also from some very high-info voters who were really into him.

              1. If you say so. I could never find any Perot supports who could coherently explain what his positions were.

                1. Donald as an independent will have a near zero effect on the election. He will long be forgotten before then.

                2. You must not have looked.

          3. How do you know it’ll be Jeb who’ll be left? How do you know he won’t, say, knock out everybody but Jindal or Carson & then endorse him?

            1. I’m only saying that this is the plan. Not that it will happen.

              1. Why would they plan to leave a relatively strong candidate standing, rather than a fringe candidate?

                1. Ok, stay with me on this.

                  Jeb Bush, from a policy perspective is Hillary with bigger tits. They are being funded by the same folks, for the same reasons.

                  They want Jeb as the candidate because no matter which one wins, they win.

    2. I agree. But just think what could happen to America if he got to put two justices on the Supreme Court and was able to get several judges on the federal bench.

      1. I’ve always thought that the best thing a libertarian (or, in this case, as libertarianish) president could do is veto 99% of what lands on his desk.

        1. If he becomes POTUS and gets anything defunded or anything repealed, that would probably make him the greatest president ever.

        2. yup. my reaction to the whole govt shutdown show was “great, now maybe we’ll finally get some work done around here”

        3. Bad strategy. When the differences in the legislature are relatively small & therefore can be easily bridged, indiscriminate vetoes just unite everyone vs. you. Vetoes should be used tactically as a negotiating tool.

          1. I agree with Robert. There’s also the problem that most of our problems are already written into the law, and need to be actively repealed. “Veto 99% of what lands on his desk” = massive growing deficits continue.

      2. One can dream.

      3. They would turn into John Roberts the politijudge ?

        1. When the dark one comes, you will know him by his ‘penaltax’.

      4. “President Paul nominates Randy Barnett to replace Ginsburg”

      5. “President Paul nominates Randy Barnett to replace Ginsburg”

  10. I think going after Paul would be a mistake actually. His ideas have a lot more traction than given credit for by the establishment.

    1. But at this point, with so many candidates in contention, it doesn’t matter if you lend traction to 1 other candidate, as long as you also gain it yourself. Everybody there would like to turn it into a 2-way contest. 50-50 out of a field that large? That’s gold!

  11. “and we think the key to an insurgent like Paul will be who shows up to vote on caucus day in Iowa.”

    Wait, so you are telling me that if people show up to vote for Paul, that could be the key to him winning the caucus there?

  12. I think the debate is likely to set up a pro- & anti-Trump dynamic. Trump & some other candidate will get into it against each other, and that’ll become what people focus on for some time afterward. I don’t know how long that dynamic might last, but it might turn it into almost a 2-candidate race between those 2 candidates for months.

    Meanwhile the 2nd-tier debate will elevate some candidate into the top ranks. & by “top ranks”, I don’t mean just #10, I mean that over the next 3 weeks, that candidate’ll be talked up into the top 5 by voters who are interested in policy.

    1. The 2nd tier are toast.

  13. If there’s any truth behind the rumor that the Donald is running because Bill Clinton encouraged him to do so, he will sink like a lead weight in water. He’ll be gone a lot sooner than I thought he would be, and good riddance. Go fix your hair, ass clown.

  14. The early part of primary season is clown time. That will end around Thanksgiving.

    Trump can’t resist being a clown and he’ll be gone, and Christie doesn’t even know he’s a clown but he’ll eventually be gone. Bush seems to know how to turn the clownishness on and off so he is the one Paul should focus on. Use his similarity to Hilary against him to point out that he isn’t appealing to the base. But don’t be repetitive about it or you will look like a one-trick pony. Try to sound a little outsider-ish yet experienced, people fall for that shit. Mention the Congressional sausage factory too often and you’re toast. The best appeal to the base right now is government waste – Trump and Christie just LOOK like they waste a lot, so you don’t even have to make it personal.

    In a few months positional attacks will be OK but be careful not to overdo it. It’s still more important to appeal to the base If you can survive to the penultimate cut down, from that point forward speak only in position-free social-signaling nothing-babble from the last few primary weeks through the general election.

    Bush is the one candidate who seems to know this – he’s a bit clownish early on because it’s clown season, but that will be winding down in a few weeks so he has to be the least clownish of the 3 big clowns. The biggest names during clown season never last very long. Don’t try to win, just look solid.

  15. “We got a viable candidate against war and for free markets, and that’s all that needs be said.” Some of those social conservative nods are “unfortunate,” Crane says, “not the way I would have done it, but he’s the one putting it out on the line and I admire him for that. I just think he’s got too many conservatives involved” in his campaign.”

    Basically what I’ve been thinking too.

    1. Crane’s a fucking retard.

      1. Yeah, “too many conservatives involved”, almost as if he was trying to get elected.

        As vs. the usual Libertarian approach of great purity and 1% of the vote.

  16. This happened well over three years ago, God knows how many times they’ve been interviewed under oath. I’m surprised the feds didn’t charge them with perjury, too (there is no freaking way you can keep your details straight for that long).

  17. People keep mentioning the candidates “being asked questions”

    For the record = there are 10 people, and they’re each granted a total of 10 mins to talk over 2 hours

    that means something like 5, 120-second statements.

    its not a ‘debate’… its the dating game. its an opportunity for them each to make canned speeches and diss one another in planned ways.

    1. Yep, if it was a real debate, the ones with no actual thoughs would get washed out. Of course, that means they wouldn’t come in the first place and they would just trash the format.

  18. “Paul can shine with his distinct foreign policy, since “50 percent of Republicans watching this debate agree with” Paul on not getting us quickly into more war in the Middle East or elsewhere”

    Market that position by emphasizing that American soldiers are too precious to waste fighting wars in the ME. Carefully executed drone strikes are more popular here at home.

  19. Paul must…be libertarian

    Uh, too late, that ship has sailed.

    1. Nope.

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