Rand Paul

Did Rand Paul Get His Libertarian Groove Back?

The debate was neither a triumph nor a disaster for Paul.


Rand Paul
Fox News

Going into the first Republican debate, expectations were especially high for Sen. Rand Paul, whose campaign has apparently seen better days. The debate was an opportunity for Paul to begin righting the ship by reassuring his libertarian flock that he is indeed one of them while stealing back the spotlight from Donald Trump.

Did Paul succeed? Depends who you ask.

I thought he at least partly succeeded. As I wrote earlier:

Sen. Rand Paul might have reclaimed some of his lost libertarian luster during a heated exchange with Chris Christie over the constitutionality of the NSA's phone records collection program. …

Christie is a big government bully who is quick to play the 9/11 card—and he's not alone on the stage in that regard. Paul's best way to distinguish himself from the rest of the field is to shore up his credentials as a defender of the liberties of all Americans, and taking on Christie was an excellent way to do that. It's important to remember that plenty of Republican primary voters—and indeed, plenty of Americans, period—are extremely uncomfortable ceding unchecked surveillance powers to the federal government.

The Washington Examiner's W. James Antle III seemed to agree with me in a column that proclaimed "Rand Paul lives":

It wasn't the Giuliani moment some were hoping for, but it was a glimpse of how Rand Paul might handle his more hawkish rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. …

Nowhere did he land a knockout punch and libertarians looking for him to channel his father still had ample grounds for complaint. Even as he defended diplomacy with Iran, he reiterated his opposition to the deal actually on the table, which Ron Paul supports. The Kentucky senator basically triangulated between Republicans who want to rip up the agreement on day one and the Obama administration. …

We won't see a reappearance of those "Rand Paul is the GOP front-runner" stories anytime soon. But perhaps it will be easier for Paul to get back to libertarian basics with less to lose.

Commentators outside the libertarian camp were less impressed with Paul's performance, however. Karl Rove said Paul "overreached" by being needlessly aggressive with Trump. The Morning Joe panel largely panned Paul's performance, and Frank Luntz's focus group participants didn't list the senator among the candidates who had wowed them.

It should be noted that Paul wasn't really given much of an opportunity to play to his strengths. Moderators asked only one question about police brutality and directed it to Gov. Scott Walker. It's easier to imagine Paul standing out a bit more if he is ever able to field questions about criminal justice reform and general electability. No Republican candidate can promise to compete for young voters and minority voters as plausibly as Paul can.

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  1. Rand Paul appears to have picked up a lot of criticism for his “off camera” looks like sneering too much etc This they apparently use to over-rule his performance in content.

    1. Perhaps he should try to look more like what people will accept as someone who would be a president, and not just a critic?

  2. No moderator anywhere is going to pitch a good question to Rand. Everything will be trash bounced off the dirt.

    No liberal or conservative journalist wants to see a successful libertarian campaign.

  3. Did Rand Paul Get His Libertarian Groove Back?
    Yeah, sure.

    But this question makes me uncomfortable. Are libertarians groovy? I know it’s the libertarian moment and all, but it’s become a watered down term as it passes into mainstream use. *Rips Bong for Aqua Buddha* Whatever, it’s all groovy.

    1. I always thought “got one’s groove back” meant that they were somewhat off track and had finally slid back into their groove where they were most comfortable.

      Like a wagon on a rough road sliding back into the well-worn groove where it would travel more efficiently and comfortably. I don’t think it has shit to do with the 70’s.

      1. I thought it meant you slept with some young dude from the islands and married him, only to find out he’s really gay after he gets his citizenship.

        1. I need to find my groove. Reason is having an event in Cuba in January…

  4. All the non-substantive things were working against Rand. His hair and clothes didn’t look right, he’s too short, his voice is whiny, and his facial expressions were douchey. On the substance, while I generally agree with him, he did a poor job of articulating his position. The peril of actual thoughtful positions is that they take more than a 30-second sound bite to explain.

    The debates will never be kind to him, because the libertarian positions (to the extent he actually holds them) tend to be initially counter-intuitive to people who haven’t thought about things that deeply. It’s an education process, and that takes time. I’m convinced that if people really understood Rand’s positions, he would have strong appeal. But I’m also convinced that the average voter is too lazy and stupid to ever fully understand them.

    1. a lotta ^^^this

      I thought he performed poorly – inarticulate, droning or whiny, not concise.

      Libertarianish? I mostly remember him getting into a mud wrestling contest with a pig, which we all know gets everyone muddy, but at least the pig has fun.

      Consequently, I remember little of substance about what he said.

      And I LIKE the guy. So I believe that would suggest he fared even worse with people not already inclined to think favorably of him.

      We shall see, shan’t we?

    2. 1) He needs to get a professional stylist to work on getting him to project confidence a bit more by his looks
      2) He needs a debate coach to put in some intensive hours to get him prepped for how to control his facial expressions, how to deal with 1-on-1 confrontations, and how to actually make a point in a 1 minute snippet.
      3) He needs a speech coach to show him how to do passionate without coming off whiny/angry.

    3. All true. So like the broader problem of statist media bias, what do you do about it?

      1. Start a libertarian news channel is the answer. Fox News needs a competitor, even many conservatives would probably agree.

    4. This is spot on. What we have to understand is that people watching these debates respond more to style than content. Otherwise why would Trump have high poll numbers. As @Trashmnstr says, he needs to work on style. What is it with the Pauls. His dad had no style and never acted “presidential” so I always concluded that he was never a serious candidate, just a libertarian policy wonk.

      I think the medium is just as important as the message and if Rand is serious, he should take this campaign seriously. Every serious candidate does this: appearance, speech, mannerisms, pacing. Get professional consultants to do this. If you want people to listen to the message you must do this. Maybe he’s just not as good on his feet as the other candidates. For example, while I strongly disagree with Christie’s response, I think in most viewers’ view, he won that skirmish. Rand could have retorted that you don’t have to trash the Constitution to do that, etc. And … every time he looked down after he spoke instead of at the camera. Arghh.

      Rand, if you want people to listen, do what it takes to win.

  5. Come on Robby. He needed a strong performance, not a 50/50 one. You’ll know whether it was a disaster or not in the coming few weeks when we learn about donations, which have been dismal so far for him.

    And on top of that he may get pushed out by Fiorona. He needed to douch better. Take your rose colored glasses off.

    1. *much. Lol

    2. Plus, he didn’t bring up climate change, right joe?

    3. I haven’t sent any money to Rand yet.

      But if Amash goes for the Senate, I’ll send him some cash.

      A Rand presidency would be cool, but it would be far more realistic to work towards getting several more Rand-like senators in place.

      1. Like as many people say Gary Johnson running for Senate in New Mexico, perhaps as an Independent endorsed by more than one party.

        He doesn’t want to be a GOP cheerleader even like Rand. But maybe like Amash?

    4. And on top of that he may get pushed out by Fiorona. He needed to douch better. Take your rose colored glasses off.

      You need to douche better. May I suggest Summer’s Eve?

  6. I don’t think it was all that Stella of a performance

    1. In his tweets and fundraising appeals today the campaign thought he was Stella.

  7. Alt-text: IT’S HAPPENING

  8. It was a Trisaster

  9. Rand got the least air time this debate (I’m too lazy to find the link again).

    I think he’ll get progressively better as the debate floor gets whittled down. He seemed to struggle to get his message cut down to 1 minute without coming off as rushed and angry.

    Also, screaming “4th Amendment” while Christie is talking doesn’t make your point as well as it could be made.

    Rand needs his debate coach to specifically coach him through 1-on-1 confrontations and how to come off as poised, but confident.

    1. Karl Rove said Paul “overreached” by being needlessly aggressive with Trump.

      You say his overreaching went too far. I say his overreaching didn’t go too far enough!

      1. +1 ea., John Jackson & Jack Johnson

    2. He should have said “Use the Fourth, Luke.” Would have killed.

  10. I like Paul and hope he wins. That said, with Paul’s standing in the polls, anything short of a triumph is by definition a disaster. Unfortunately, pretty good isn’t good enough.

    1. The game isn’t over yet. It’s still really early to start eliminating a candidate pulling in 5%. Hell, Fiorina and Perry are probably going to transfer from the little kids table and they had less than 2%!

      Paul’s job for the next 2-3 months is to try to get solidly into the top 5 or 6, and practice like hell for the next debate. This isn’t like daddy. 5% when there are 6 candidates isn’t the same as 5% when there are 17 candidates.

      1. It is also pertinent to point out that when Clinton first started running in the democratic primary in a field just as crowded as the GOP primary is now, he was an unknown pulling only 2.8% at the Iowa Caucus. Rand just needs to stick in there, manage his campaign money effectively, and stay on point. Rand isn’t a perfect candidate, and he isn’t his dad, but he is by far and away a much better candidate than any running in either the Democratic or Republican fields.

  11. This is a tough room.

    You guys could take a page out of the sports world. To paraphrase: you can’t win the Republican nomination in the first debate but you can sure lose it.

    The goal now is to stay around and find opportunities to get your point across. Get on as many shows and grant as many interviews as possible in ways that will grow your base. The rest of the SoCon base is fractured with so many candidates. Cornering the libertarian wing of the party as well as crossover voters that will participate in the primaries because the Dem primary is a joke or because he’s struck a chord on a serious issue like the 4A or drug/sentencing reform will get him the traction when needed. The field will be whittled down considerably by January. He needs to be “the most likely to beat Hillary” or whoever the Dems are likely to nominate and needs to have a broad appeal to crossover voters by then. The shitshow from last night can’t help him get there but a bad showing might have prevented him from getting there. In that respect, he did just fine.

    1. His hardest task is to convince people that he brings something to the GOP that isn’t being better represented by Cruz.

      I actually think that Rand will gain in the polls after this debate, not because of anything he did, but because Walker came off robotic, Bush didn’t impress, Trump pissed a bunch of folks off, and Kasich proved he didn’t belong on the big stage.

      1. His hardest task is to convince people that he brings something to the GOP that isn’t being better represented by Cruz.

        Not being whiny with high school debate team speaking skills like Cruz is a nice start.

    2. There are three tickets out of the Iowa Caucuses. I imaging the Rand will have one of them due to the people that gave Ron a ticket. Jeb probably gets Romney’s ticket as the next establishment candidate. It’s not clear to me who inherits Santorum’s ticket, but I expect it might be Walker.

      1. Huckabee will get Santorum’s. He’s similarly SoCon, and he was extraordinarily charismatic at the debate. As much as his politics suck, Huckabee comes off as a sincere guy.

        1. The huckster could, but he had his run. I don’t think he gets another ticket from Iowa.

        2. Manservant….. Huckubus!

      2. Agreed that Rand gets one. The other two will ultimately go to Huck or Bush and to Kasich or Walker. The rest are just window dressing.

        So that gets us to New Hampshire, where Rand should do relatively well against any of those. Then South Carolina, where he won’t do well at all and Nevada where he will win…and then it will hopefully come down to him in a one-on-one with the remaining person of the four I mentioned above.

        I still think he has a good path to win the nomination. But like anything, it will have to go just right.

        1. The good news is that I can’t imagine anyone I have met during the caucus process actually voting for Trump.

          1. Agreed, it’s hard to imagine anyone actually pulling the lever for Trump.

        2. I wouldn’t count Rand out in SC. Especially with the neocon and socon vote being split by so many people. The question for me is, can he consolidate the small government conservatives and everybody that’s pissed at the GOP establishment.

          1. He’s polling about as well as Hillary in South Carolina. And that’s with GOP voters alone. He has virtually no chance there.

            1. I don’t get it. What is about Paul that South Carolina Republicans dislike?

              1. The fact that he’s not a bible-thumper that wants to legislate from the good book.

          2. Ted Cruz being in the race is a real hinderance i think.

      3. It’s not clear to me who inherits Santorum’s ticket, but I expect it might be Walker.

        I’m thinking either Walker or Cruz. I figure either of them are so-con enough to appeal to them, while simultaneously not scaring off the establishment or the neo-con factions. In Cruz’ case he also crosses over somewhat into Tea Party appeal.

    3. I agree, despite all of the areas where Paul can improve I think he did exactly what he needed to do. He got a soundbite with Christie which made it into the news cycle, and he got another soundbite attacking Trump for buying and selling politicians. Many people I talked to thought Christie came across as a mean Northeasterner in the debate and I think Paul bested him with most. The Drudge poll had several candidates scoring less than him, so I think he punched above his weight considering he had the least amount of time.

    1. This is the first time that I will give the HuffPo a rousing round of applause!

    2. OK, that was pretty funny…

    3. Quality internetz right there

  12. RP needs to condemn the “police stating” of America via drug war, foreign adventurism breeding terrorism, and excessive force for misdemeanors. He needs to position himself as a different kind of Republican with a chance down the road after this current crop of tuf gais run their course.

  13. O/T: EPA spills a million gallons of mine pond water into a river in CO.


    Government is just another word for the rivers we pollute together.

    1. Where is Greenpeace suing the EPA? Where is the EPA suing itself? Where are the various states impacted suing the EPA?

      Just imagine the outrage if Exxon or Halliburton were responsible for that spill. You’d have pickets at their offices and death threats to their officers. Why not the EPA?

      1. Suing? They just levy $100,000/day in administrative fines.

        1. If the EPA fines itself $100,000 a day, do you realize the multiplier effect this will have on the GDP? It’ll be a fucking financial goldmine for the United States.

          1. They’ll just need to be careful what they do with the waste water from that gold mine.

            But hey, they could take all that gold they’re mining and mint a trillion dollar coin or two…

            1. I just want to know if Glenn Beck is calling dibs on the water.

            2. There’s gotta be a market for heavy-metals-contaminated water. There’s practically a market for everything.

              1. Planned Parenthood might buy it – it is supposed to cause miscarriages. Might cut their costs.

                1. Wouldn’t that spoil the orgasms, tho?

                  1. *organs. Damn, we need an edit button 😛

                    1. Nah. The original is ten times better.

                    2. Freudian autocorrect?

      2. EPA will sue CO for inadequate grease-traps – too much FOG…

      3. Why no outrage, BigT? Because their agenda is not about the environment.

    2. Looks like the EPA…

      *dons Al’s sunglasses*

      …is all wet.

      1. Those people in Colorado are…

        *pulls off sunglasses*

        …up a creek.

        1. The EPA…

          *dusts off sunglasses*

          …sold them down the river.

          1. Seems the EPA is

            [dons Groucho Marx nose and glasses]

            is up the creek without a paddle…

            1. This gif is…

              *pulls off sunglasses*

              the most appropriate for these threads.

    3. I read thru the news entries but there’s no explanation of how it happened. I’ll reserve judgement until we find out.

      1. Reserve judgement…. Just like the EPA does?

      2. http://www.thedenverchannel.co…..imas-river

        “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operating under an access agreement obtained from the owner of the Gold King Mine, had begun an investigation regarding the source of contaminated water at the Gold King Mine last year. Upon suspending work last year, the USEPA backfilled the portal to the mine. On August 5th, 2015, while the USEPA was removing the backfill from the portal to the Gold King Mine to continue its investigation this year, the plug blew out releasing contaminated water behind the backfill into the Animas River.”

        1. Procedures were followed. EPA agents got home safe that night.

        2. But some of us want to know; will this create a ghost town like Picher?

    4. “Everything was fine until Dickless here shut off our containment grid!”

      1. Is this true?

        1. Yes, that man has no dick.

    5. What kind of mine? What metals? What did the EPA actually do to cause the release?

      Not a lot of info in that article.

      1. Gold mine, and waste water probably contaminated by the usual (arsenic, manganese, cadmium, cobalt, etc.).

      2. That article…

        *dons Fist’s sunglasses*

        …was no information goldmine.

      3. Backhoe attack.

  14. No moderator anywhere is going to pitch a good question to Rand. Everything will be trash bounced off the dirt.

    Kelly was particularly biased. She cut off Rand to give more time to Christie even though he had just had a full minute to rant. And immediately after the debate she and her co-whores declared the debate a disaster for Trump. I used to like her, and I thought the questions the panel asked were pretty good – and designed to create tension (hence good TV) – but her ‘moderator’ role was weak. She came through as a Bush-Huckster supporter, with a nod to Kasich because he was an underdog in his home state.

    She gets a C-.

    1. Megyn is a centrist democrat who will almost certainly be casting her vote for Hillary Clinton.

      But hey, nobody’s perfect.

      1. Bullshit. If anything, she’s an establishment Republican. Which doesn’t really help, either.

        1. You’re wrong, but it’s not a big deal.

        2. centrist democrat or establishment Republican – what is the difference exactly? Who they fleece for campaign funds? Which business cronies they have? Oh, abortion. Got it.

      2. Megyn is a centrist democrat who will almost certainly be casting her vote for Hillary Clinton.

        This actually makes a lot of sense.

      3. Do the voices in your head get loud at night?

  15. The Morning Joe panel largely panned Paul’s performance

    You don’t say.

    1. What’s a Morning Joe? Is it anything like a Morning Wood?

      1. There are certainly dicks involved in both.

      2. What’s a Morning Joe?

        It’s that weak-ass bitter hot water you need lots of cream and sugar to tolerate.

  16. It’s actually Morning Joke.

  17. That headline… it sucks.

    It evokes How Stella Got Her Groove Back, a turd of a movie.

    1. I was thinking of The Emperor’s New Groove, but yours makes more sense.

      1. Beware the Groove

  18. No. Next question…

  19. Rand’s main problem has been that he and his advisers take seriously the idiotic “advice” in the last column of this article. Criminal Justice reform? You think that is the issue at the forefront of Middle Class America right now? And electability is only relevant if the voters think you are on their side in the first place.

    Rand’s path to the nomination was obvious- the same fucking path he used when he trounced Mitch McConnell and his chosen candidate in the 2010 Senate Election and then breezed past the Democratic in the General. 2010 Rand would be killing it right now in the GOP race, despite his shrimpish stature and bad hair. But instead of winning over the GOP base nationwide the same way he did in Kentucky, Rand is doing his best to piss them off while concentrating on irrelevancies like proving he’s the candidate most likely to lose by the lowest number of votes in Detroit.

    1. You certainly live down to your handle. Lemme guess: you think the Ferguson Effect is something other than bullshit brewed up by the New Conservative “Media”?

      1. What I think is that the average middle class American doesn’t give a shit about Ferguson one way or the other. For the average voter, Ferguson is a place they are very much glad they don’t have to live in, but with the way the economy is going and immigration is being handled, they aren’t nearly as confident that their own neighborhood, or the neighborhood next to their neighborhood, won’t descend in to Ferguson like crime and dysfunction as they used to.

        Fringe issues like police brutality against black people are issues that only the fat and happy have the luxury of caring about. The Middle is getting killed right now, they are terrified that not just the American dream but America itself is collapsing, and when they hear a candidate pontificating about nonsense like Ferguson, they rightly assume said candidate is completely out of touch.

        In 2010 Rand Paul established the template for how a Liberty Leaning Republican can get elected to office. Why in 2015 he decided to tear up the highly successful script that he himself wrote is probably the most perplexing question of the 2016 Primary.

        1. “The Middle is getting killed right now,”

          Sort of a hilarious comment, falling as it does in the middle of your rant about how the concerns of the people who are actually literally being killed right now are irrelevant.

        2. How silly of us to think “not getting murdered by your own government” was part of the American dream.

          I forgot that the sum total of the American dream is “a world without Mexicans”.

  20. What good is a staged talking point commercial for the establishment puppets if they throw in legit questions to a half-zionist/half-libertarian infiltrator of the establishment?

    Of course they aren’t going to create a situation to help popularize libertarian ideas…..If Rand Paul wants to make a opportunity he is going to have to throw the script in the trash, come out swinging and make some heart felt libertarian attacks on how phony all those fuckers are.

  21. Personally, I think Rand Paul was spot-on last night. But looking around, I see that the consensus from the GOP base is “oh my God can you believe how crazy he sounds? He doesn’t think we should borrow money and then give it to other countries! He doesn’t want to invade Iraq again! It is like listening to a crazy homeless man on the street!”


    Looks like another four years of war and reckless spending, with the priority of the two being the chief outcome of the election.

  22. It’s pretty obvious to me that Rand Paul is not a libertarian. But let’s say I’m wrong. Here’s the broader logical analysis:

    1. If Rand Paul is a libertarian, he will never get the Republican nomination.
    2. If Rand Paul is not a libertarian, it doesn’t matter whether he gets the Republican nomination.

    Personally, I would love it if Reason would spend a lot less time talking about him.

    1. It may be obvious to you but it certainly isn’t obvious to Reason. And for them to stop talking about him there needs to be another candidate running in one of the two major parties who sounds, acts, and votes more libertarian than him. Which is unlikely, particularly since on the Democratic side the race is between a big government nanny-statist who embraces socialism and Bernie Sanders. The Republican side has drug warriors, interventionists, crony capitalists, “compassionate” conservatives, and Rand Paul. So of course Reason is gonna talk about the least shitty candidate in a world of giant shit turds.

  23. Two notes:
    1. Fox followed it’s previous policy of allocating time on the basis of current polling. Trump got more than twice as much talk time as Rand, who got less than five minutes of the two hours.
    2. Rand did make one important point, which all the media (particularly Fox) has ignored: he’s the only candidate who beats Clinton in four states won by Obama. Nationwide, he’s tied with Jeb for best showing against Clinton.

    The Fox bias against Rand is all too obvious: he doesn’t play their military-industrial-intelligence jargon, which is almost 3/4 of Fox’s news coverage. Warrior conservatives do NOT want any Paul on the debate stage.

    1. I don’t hold importance to the idea, “I can beat Clinton.” We all know who else can, and has, beat Clinton, Obama.

  24. He was owned by Christie, not that christie was right, he’s not right about anything as far as I can tell, but that he was’t allowed to defend his position, and cut off by the moderators, specifically Kelly. You can hear her voice saying they needed to move on, it was convenient that christie had the last word.

    His calling out trump, although true, did make him look like the the kid on the playground who had his swing taken from him crying out at a distance that you’re a big bully. It was whiney at best.

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