Rand Paul

Rand Paul Backers Still Believe He Can Stand Out

SuperPACers, former staffers, hope for a tougher Paul who fights on foreign policy and civil liberties to stand out.


As Rand Paul makes news this week for showing he's not a mere politician, but a man of medicine who can effectively bring eyesight to the blind on a humanitarian trip to Haiti, he still has a presidential campaign to run, and the polls are still not good and getting worse.

Admirers and former associates of Paul, both within and without the SuperPACs supporting him, still believe there's life left in the campaign—though it might require a libertarian boldness Paul has not, from their perspective, fully embodied. (I shared some of my own thoughts, still not settled, about whether a tougher libertarianism is just something libertarians want out of Paul, or something he must embody for electoral success.)

The first SuperPAC in the Rand Paul field, the one most closely associated with the Paul family machine, and the one that has so far raised the most money ($3.13 million, still at the bottom of the GOP candidate pack), is America's Liberty. Earlier this month, its two chief operatives were indicted on campaign finance reporting violation charges related to payoffs to Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson during the 2012 Ron Paul campaign.

That PAC is now run by John McCardell, another former Ron Paul staffer, who told Politico merely that "We have a long held plan to help Rand win and we are moving ahead. Nothing has changed."

Ed Crane, co-founder and retired longtime chieftain of the Cato Institute, runs the Paul-supporting PurplePAC. With his libertarian movement background, he sees the best chances for Paul lie in being more consistently libertarian, and he says others in the campaign's orbit are getting the same feeling. "The very fact that he was going after the NSA, skeptical of being the world's policeman, that made him unique," Crane says, and explains why he started off polling double digits.

Paul should have used the first GOP candidate debate, Crane says, and all his earned media, to hit home that he is "the candidate who is pro free market, anti-crony capitalism and is skeptical of the efficacy of the U.S. being the world's policemen, and is also concerned about civil liberties" unlike his opponents who all want "boots on the ground" in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Crane says that PurplePAC is not actively trying to raise money right now pending some possible additions to its command structure and seeking wider feedback on the best next steps, though he hopes they can eventually produce powerful social media work that "makes the case for Rand the way it should be made, get people thinking about free markets, concern for civil liberties, and skepticism about the military, that he's the only guy who stands for all that and express it in a clear and understandable way."

Matt Kibbe, formerly of FreedomWorks, is now working with a Paul SuperPAC called Concerned American Voters, focusing on get out the vote ground game in Iowa. He's trying to keep his eye on the prize through the chaos of bad polling and waves of media trying to bury the Paul campaign prematurely.

"Rand should stick to his strengths," Kibbe says, "one of which is ground game and the second of which is being the substantive, disruptive policy guy who has actually proposed radical tax reform, led on criminal justice reform and stands out from crowd on foreign policy and civil liberties, own the libertarian aspects of who he is."

If he can do that and "stays long enough to cull the herd and get focused," things could still work out fine when actual votes are cast, Kibbe believes.

Brian Darling, a former Paul senate staffer (Darling both wrote legislation for the senator and worked as his senior communication director, leaving for financial reasons early this year) who now works with the D.C. political consulting firm Third Dimension Strategies, sees a campaign suffering from the overly high early expectations created by the idea that he was "the most interesting man in politics" and an early front runner.

Like many who still hold out hope for Paul, Darling remembers past campaigns where what was happening at this point in the cycle had little to do with the eventual outcome. Darling, who had a long standard conservative movement background with the Heritage Foundation before working for Paul, also believes a Paul who can really hit home his unique positions on the Fourth Amendment can and should stand out positively among his fellow candidates, and that Paul's more libertarian foreign policy can and will appeal to a "people worn out with endless wars—Obama campaigned on a more restrained military but he's done anything but."

Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration Justice Department lawyer and former Ron Paul advisor who helped craft a Rand Paul lawsuit against the NSA, says he is in negotiations for a big role in PurplePAC moving forward. He hopes ultimately he can help them "articulate more forcefully what Rand ought to be doing and is not doing, giving him downfield blocking" for a more radically anti-intervention and pro-civil liberties campaign.

Despite being best known as a conservative movement legal scholar, Fein was most passionate talking about foreign policy: he stressed that "where Rand should be distinguishing himself head and shoulders above all the others is that we don't go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, you cannot take states whose political culture is in the Pleistocene age and make them democracies, and that defense should be focused on protecting the U.S. from attack, deterrence" and not "wasting money and lives needlessly. We do the equivalent of sticking a bayonet into a hornets' nest and wonder why the hornets come back."

Someone with as impeccable a history of being tough on America's enemies as President Eisenhower, Fein says, warned us about the military industrial complex who "pursue needless gratuitous wars for profit" and he thinks Paul can successfully call on that tradition in the GOP now.

That stuff sounds great to libertarians, but is there a national constituency for it now in a Trump-besotted GOP? Fein believes that Paul needs to stress his wider appeal to the independents without whose substantial support in key states no GOP candidate can win nationally.

All agree that Trump is stealing some of the "outsider" vibe that should have been Paul's to claim, despite being a sitting senator. Darling sees value in Trump's radically anti-establishment position against the notion of "political families akin to royalty" like the Clintons and Bushes. Trump also shows, Darling says, that many Republican voters are very eager to oppose current Republican political leadership, an area that Paul is also well equipped to grab, standing alone on issues like NSA spying.

Fein thinks Trump's brashness is something Paul might want to emulate, "don't be recessive, be dominant," don't be afraid to use adjectives–"you can reasonably describe our foreign policy as utter idiocy, costing trillions and killing needlessly, and it has to be said that way" not disguised under such "Georgetown seminar" terms as "'conservative realism.' Permanent war and limited government are antonyms" and Paul needs to sharply make that case.

"The upside to Trump," says Kibbe, "is that he demonstrates the complete distrust and disgust that voters have with the standard two party duopoly and that dynamic should be Rand's playing field. People are genuinely eager to throw everyone out, and if he's good enough Rand can turn that into a libertarian policy mandate."

Paul has frustrated some backers over his unwillingness to do some high profile appearances at events such as the RedState Gathering and the most recent gathering of the Koch brothers' political funding group Freedom Partners. Kibbe thinks the public reason Paul gives is the real one: that he sees the opportunity costs of schmoozing with conservative movement solons and funders as too high when he could be doing retail campaigning in important early states.

Crane, though, detects a candidate who "comes across that he's not happy as a candidate and wishes he didn't have to go to these [events] but you can't ask people to work for you much less vote for you if not going to be enthusiastic" about the process. "He's not a backslapper, not a go get 'em guy." Crane also complains that past attempts, pre-PAC, to connect the Paul campaign to big-money libertarians he knows were never effectively followed up by the official campaign.

All see no reason to believe the Paul campaign is over; all agreed aspects of both the campaign and polling and fundraising were frustrating, especially considering the vital stakes for libertarian ideas at stake. Darling, who worked for Paul, is sure that Paul is "not the kind of guy to walk away from a fight. He stood up at the debates nose to nose with the two bullies, Christie and Trump, and anyone who thinks he will pull out, no way, they don't know the guy. He's not a quitter."

NEXT: A.M. Links: Clinton Email Scandal Widens, Biden Polls Well in Swing States, North and South Korea Exchange Fire

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  1. He’d better step up his game big time, and quickly, because he came off like a not ready for prime time amateur in the first go-round.

    1. To be fair, I’m trying to think of who didn’t come across as a not ready for prime time amateur. Honestly Donald Trump seemed like the only person who wasn’t coached to within an inch of his life which may have something to do with why he’s polling well. Although full of crap, he’s the only one with a personality. I know Rand Paul is the candidate lots of people like around here, but so far he’s done everything humanly possible to look just like everyone else running, which is the one thing you can’t do in a field this crowded and definitely not when the mood of the country seems to be anti-traditional politician. It’s like he’s determined to not be his dad.

      He isn’t particularly dynamic or charismatic at his baseline and certainly not the way he’s playing it, nor can he appeal to the super conservative wing of the party because they all know him as that tea party guy. He comes across as inauthentic and none of his proposals are exciting. Frankly I’m not sure he can recover from the way he’s conducted himself so far. He’ll need something pretty drastic and I’m not sure he’s got it in him.

      1. none of his proposals are exciting

        Actually, I think a flat tax, 5 year balanced budget, etc. are exciting. Problem in a debate with 10 other people is, there’s really not much time to excite anyone with it.

      2. Honestly Donald Trump seemed like the only person who wasn’t coached to within an inch of his life which may have something to do with why he’s polling well.


        I think many libertarians. including myself to an extent, misread the grassroots success of Ron Paul as some sort of libertarian moment. Ron Paul captured attention for the same reason (and in some cases, from the same people) as Bernie Sanders (and Donald Trump) are now. He wasn’t a manufactured establishment candidate. He was someone who was gonna speak his mind and let the chips fall where they may. And this resonated with a vast swath of the electorate that are sick of being focus-grouped, polled, and talked to as though they were children incapable of confronting ideas. Trump and Sanders both have an element of this speak your mind sorta thing going on.

      3. Agreed.

        I was arguing for him to take a dramatic stance based on libertarian principles before the (R) debate to set himself apart from the relentless, monotonous droning of the majority of the other candidates in the field, to no avail.

        This bland, milquetoast strategy he and his advisors have decided to employ does nothing to increase his chances of obtaining the nomination. As far as the majority of the casually observant, potential republican voters are concerned, he’s just another voice in the choir.

        1. Him taking on Trump as being “not one of us” was the worse than just keeping his mouth shut

          1. Well, to his credit, he was right in that assertion. It may have temporarily hurt his chances but it may be beneficial to him if Trump finally loses the good will of republican primary voters.

            His only other exchange of note was with Christie on NSA surveillance which a good deal of people have become disallusioned with. He held his own, in principle, regardless the current public perception of the spat. Apart from those two insistence, why would anyone not a political junkie even remember him being on stage? His only chance(though to be honest, wasn’t great to begin with) is to speak the truth when given the opportunity.

            1. I really liked his not wanting to borrow money from China to give it to Israel point too.

            2. Trump has a lot of time to screw things up. Then the Trumpskyites will have a “What was I thinking?” moment and move on to the next guy who’s first in the polls.

      4. “To be fair, I’m trying to think of who didn’t come across as a not ready for prime time amateur. ”

        The chick did pretty well.

  2. He stands out all right. But not for the right reasons.

  3. UPDATE: Family members say Shaun King is white.

    Well. That’s kind of going to destroy his claim he was beaten by a mob of rednecks in an anti-black hate crime, unless he was pretending to be black way back then, in which case this is the most confusing story I’ve ever seen.

    1. C’mon, Irish. Let the guy ride that sweet SJW gravy train!

    2. Here’s the solution to race problems, both perceived and otherwise: Legally declare everyone to be the same color.

      1. Which out! ProL has his lathe of heaven and he;s not afraid to use it!

        1. Excellent, Jor Jor. You are human capable of iahklu as previously noted.

        1. Particularly as one looks out the window while one’s Aer Lingus is making its “final descent” onto the runway at Shannon.

        2. light green; dark green; chartreuse . . .

        3. light green; dark green; chartreuse . . .

          1. soylent

      2. My plan is to convince everyone to lie about their race at every opportunity. I did my part by completely making shit up on the census survey thing that I got.

        1. Write in Homo sapiens sapiens.

    3. Is there anyone in the progressive movement who isn’t either a scam artist or a gullible victim?

  4. paul blew it.

    in a campaign where voters want authenticity, his message became a muddle of politics over principle.

    he did poorly at the debate, he has not been forceful with ideas, and he sold out to the establishment. he now seems like another politician but with poor speaking skills.

    he was not ready for this and his mostly excellent message has been lost. he should cut his losses, lick his wounds, and try to get it right next time.

    1. he did poorly at the debate

      Was there a second debate that I missed? Every review I’ve heard of the initial debate said he held his own and I agree with that assessment. Not spectacular, but not “poor” by any means.

      The last thing you want to do in a Republican primary is peak too early. Remember 2012?

      1. Yeah, I don’t think Rand was bad at all. Who watched the debate and thought he was playing middle of the road?

        I think his lack of support is perfectly illustrated in his argument with Christie. Christie made an emotional argument and an appeal from authority (“I was a prosecutor who went to FISA and I’m telling you now that Rand paul is making terrorist jobs easier!”). Paul responded with sound logic that you can keep terrorists at bay and still respect the 4th Amendment. And most GOP commentators decided that Christie won.

        Paul isn’t losing support because he won’t take strident positions. He is losing support because the GOP voters predominantly DON’T AGREE with those positions. While he might be able to convince people given time, their initial reaction to a 30 second monologue is to reject him.

      2. He didn’t have a chance to do anything, he had only 4 minutes and when he tried to respond to christie’s last comment, Kelly cut him off. He’s not standing out save for a couple issues, very important ones, is because he is towing the party line. To say he has to do that to be elected is the reason people are fed up with politics as usual, and no guarantee he will do anything different when elected.

  5. but a man of medicine who can effectively bring eyesight to the blind on a humanitarian trip to Haiti,

    But does he own his own helicopter?

  6. Rand Paul is face down on the canvas and the referee has just counted to nine. Only in Rocky movies does someone get up and win the fight.

    Why is RP lying on the ground? Because the American people have overwhelmingly rejected liberty. They fear ISIL, they fear Iran, they fear immigrants, they fear everything except the government to whom they look for protection from imaginary monsters.

    You can argue that he’s been screwed by the media, (he has) you can argue that he hasn’t put his message out clearly (every loser claims that), you can argue that he’s not charismatic (as opposed to whom? JEB? GW Bush?, Bernie Sanders?).

    In the final analysis the culture is authoritarian and the great “libertarian moment” has not come and will not come in our lifetimes. A friend of mine says that we live in the year 1853….1853 BC. She says she’s being optimistic. I think she’s a downright Pollyanna.

    1. The reign of Senusret III wasn’t so bad, all things considered.

      1. Good pay with free beer if you were working on a pyramid and there were always plenty of hookers. But no internet was a bummer.

    2. Reason recently had an article suggesting that the country has gotten more libertarian since polls indicate more support for gay marriage, MJ legalization and increased skepticism of universal health care.

      However, I think you are right. We are becoming more socially accepting, but we are not becoming more liberal. The parents who made you go to bed at 7:30 each night are now willing to let you stay up till 9:00. But you still have to eat all your dinner and only watch educational programming.

  7. I have been surprised by Rand’s seeming lack of energy. Then again, that’s just what I’ve been reading in the media and hearing from others. I haven’t really been watching closely enough to validate those claims for myself. I thought he could have done better at the debate but I didn’t think he was terrible. Kinda hard to stand out when you only get to speak three times. Fox sure gave a lot of time to Bush, Kasich, Walker (who sounds like a moron when he talks), Rubio, and Trump.

    Is Paul doing what his dad did in 2012 and just trying to organize the grass roots in the main primary states? I really have no idea what his campaign is doing. All I read in the news is so and so things such and such and Paul’s campaign is not doing well and he’s not polling well.

    1. Wow, sorry for terrible post. Still drinking my morning caffeine (out on the west coast).

      1. I’m pretty sure I’m a worse driver uncaffeinated than I am drunk.

  8. As much as I hate to say it, Rand’s position on national security will always be a liability in the GOP.

    I think the article and its quoted supporters are flatly off base. As noted by others, the GOP is dominated by people who believe that the only response to ISIL is a strong kick in their nuts.

    Even Rand’s position on the NSA Surveillance was too easily turned against him by Christie. It was no longer “I’m here to protect your liberties”, but rather “Take it from me, this guy is helping terrorists.”

    The debate format was not conducive to Rand, though I think he did well with what he was given. The problem is all the questions were “You have 30 seconds to respond to this Gotcha question.” Gotcha questions are all about seen costs. Unfortunately, liberty questions always come down to explaining UNSEEN costs. You can’t do that in 30 seconds, and Paul can never do it in the one or two soundbites afforded him in the 24/7 news cycle.

    If I were his communications director, I would start with Paul’s “Money quotes”- those one sentence extracts from his speeches that get clipped for newsreels. They cannot be platitudes like “I will return your liberty”, but need to be sentences that lead people to think. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and I’m the only candidate willing to tell you that basic truth.” These will at least get people to stop and think for a minute.

    1. They cannot be platitudes like “I will return your liberty”, but need to be sentences that lead people to think. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and I’m the only candidate willing to tell you that basic truth.”

      I agree. I was just watching the ad in the middle of this article about Trump:
      And the speech segments from Rand is really just meaningless dribble. I think he’s getting some seriously bad political advice

      1. about Trump

        The article isn’t about Trump, the ad is

      2. Whatzisname, the former governor of NW had pretty bad advice.

    2. Good one liners are only effective with people who share your basic philosophy. “There’s no such things as a free lunch” resonates with people who understand that wealth must be created. If you think that wealth is a stationary quantity and the only way to get it is by depriving someone else of it then everything can be free as long as you vote the “right” way.

      I agree that the “sound bite” debate format works against anyone who wants to do something beyond appeal to his base. Trump understood that his base was the frustrated and gave them an excuse to be angry. Mexicans have taken the place of Jews, Italians and Irish of the past. Decades ago all Jews were dishonest, all Italians were in the Mafia and before that all Irish were all in street gangs despite the overwhelming majority of all three groups being hard working and honest. The Chinese Exclusion Act was based on the alleged activities of the Tongs despite Chinese immigrants, then as now, being amazingly hard working.

      Want to try to explain that in 30 seconds?

      1. I tend to agree, but I do think most GOP voters at least recognize TANSTAAFL. They are already skeptical that government can fix their problems. What he needs is to turn that skepticism towards the other interventions that the rest of the field wants to publicize.

        Trump has captured the “I hear you, you are right, and I’m going to carry your voice to those assholes in washington” vote. He is the financial advisor telling you how wrong it is that the Banks put you in this financial situation. Rand needs to be the financial advisor who first tells you that you have the power to fix things.

      2. People resent Jews over time for same reason they resent East Asians and Mormons: Its not that they run the neighborhood into the ground, its that they end up having a nicer house, better job, more money, etc. Envy and suspicion, not disgust or mistrust, drives such bigotry.

        The Yellow Peril was all about Chinese workers undercutting everyone else and running them out of business. When was last time anyone worried about such things regarding black people moving into the neighborhood?

        1. You’re right about the true reasons that people hated Jews and Chinese. I was talking about the stated reasons. Most bigots won’t say “We have to get rid of these people because they’re hardworking, intelligent and successful” although if some start saying this I won’t be overly surprised.

  9. I always feel libertarians reach too far without having established themselves as a governing force to be taken serious by the general public. I think Paul should announce that when he becomes President he will contract with a crowd funding service and create Kickstarter.gov (or whomever wins the bid). Add a few programs to it like she Criminal Justice Reform Fund which money raised will go to local police for training or jurisdictions to help them fix their policing problems (picked that since Rand put his hat into the ring on that issue). He shouldn’t be highlighting cut services before he can demonstrate how he could succeed by doing things differently. This would be a great way to create programs/services that benefit greater society without them being implemented by force and that the people can choose when they are no longer necessary to be funded.

    1. Dial-a-bribe? Popularattainder.com? Looters_R_Us? Aren’t there already eleemosynary causes out there that have no affiliation with a monopoly on violence?
      Libertarians defeat fascist looters at the polls so their soft machines have to provide more freedom in exchange for that invisible hand in the till. If elected ourselves, we vote against taxes, extortion and violence, no gimmicks, no bullshit. We are concerned with facts of reality and not with what dreamers “always feel.”

  10. Paul stood up to Trump and Christie, yes, but apparently most people thought he got his clock cleaned by them. Willing to fight is good, but you also have to land punches.

    Immigraton is the issue that most of the likely GOP voters are upset about and feel they have been lied to about by the pols and the libertarian position is on the wrong side of that issue to take advantage of the passion there. It is hard to run as anti–Establishment when you essentially side with he Establishment on such a major issue.

  11. I think the Paul boy is an exemplary anti-choice Republican. I wish the rest of God’s Own Politicians had half as much sense as he does. I will gladly vote against him and for the libertarian candidate if he gets the GOP nomination.

  12. Rand is not an establishment tool, yet seemingly acts and talks like one. That appeals to pretty much nobody, ask Jeb.

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  15. Me and many of my Libertarian friends will start considering Rand once he picks up his father non-interventionist foreign policy points and stops polishing AIPAC’s/Adelson’s balls. Or if he goes third party.


      Fuck off Sheldon.

  16. Stay in the senate another six years and be the voice of reason against war mongers, phoney
    small government republicans, wealth redistributionists, privacy violators, and the like. Paul needs to be seen as the principal and principle opponent against the excesses of a Republican or Democratic administration

  17. His dad never compromised, held office for decades, and, possibly complicated by GOP machinations, came surprisingly close to winning his party’s nomination.

    Since day 1 his dad’s supporters have been saying Rand needed to stay pure to liberty or he’d lose his base and gain nothing for it.

    Don’t get me wrong, he’s worked on some great ideas. But he has compromised in a mistaken belief he’d widen his appeal and compromise breeds confusion and distrust amongst his base.

    He runs around for a few years saying we can’t afford foreign wars

    …then goes to a religious institution and says we’ll stand by Israel at any cost

    He says would should have a flat tax

    …with plenty of exemptions – which is an oxymoron puts us right back in the lobbyist mess we started with

    Again, he’s got some great ideas and has been working towards some admirable goals but by compromising in the mistaken belief he’ll appeal to a wider audience Rand is going from a great
    example of liberty at work to the least stinking turd in the big pile

    And after his base warning him about it from day 1 he’s just now getting it when it may be too late

    1. came surprisingly close to winning his party’s nomination.

      Sorry this is a fantasy. Ron never came anywhere near real power.

  18. I should add a lot of his dad’s supporters were highly suspicious of Jesse Benton and his manipulations and deals during his father’s campaign and voiced those concerns. Many took at least small consolation when it was all over that Jesse was finally out of the picture.

    Rand’s response was to make him central to his own campaign.

    And now he’s indicted.

    Rand’s two major failures this election cycle stem from not listening to his base

    When a candidate stops listening to his base they go elsewhere

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  20. Rand has run a surprisingly inept campaign and the GOP voters have become really retarded. I do not see a viable turnaround strategy. Rand should hang in there for 1 more month and then fold it up.

    1. It’s only partially Rand’s fault. If you saw his presentation on judicial activism (which he favors) to the Heritage Foundation (who loathes judicial activism) you would see him at his best. His arguments were clear, concise and well thought out – qualities that can’t be demonstrated in 30 second sound bites.

      I agree that he’s toast in debates. He’s fighting an authoritarian culture where the other nine “contestants” (it really does seem like a game show) are all authoritarians of one kind or another not to mention the interrogators who show no interest in subjects beyond immigration, saving Social Security and fighting “terrorism”. “Why do you want ISIS to overrun America?” isn’t a question, it’s an inquisition. “How many American jobs do you want to sacrifice to felonious illegal immigrants?” has more implicit premises than can be addressed in an hour much less in 30 seconds.

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  22. Rand has his own ideas, and plenty of campaign experience of his own. He’s not ignorant or stupid, which could be a handicap, I guess. I think he’ll avoid the mistakes others make, and now is much too early to want to be the front-runner.

  23. Rand has the best policy positions of anyone running. Unfortunately he has a tepid personality and next to someone like Trump he looks totally lifeless.

    Trump is buffoonish, but whatever he’s doing is working. He’s completely cornered the entire populist anti-politician voter base that Rand was trying to recruit. Every voter that otherwise might have considered Rand because they wanted someone anti-establishment is now firmly team Trump, and until Trump shouts his way out of the race Rand will have zero traction with these voters.

    The question is if that happens in time. I see Rand’s campaign as completely outmatched here by sheer force of personality.

    1. The problem is that he also likes to attack America. That works for Libertarians, but you are never going to win a Republican presidential nomination by attacking the US, especially its foreign policy.

  24. The fact is, the Republicans have not had a debate ? they had a half assed Q&A session with unequal time given to the candidates.

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  26. Paul isn’t going to get much time in any debate. We know this. What he should do in my opinion is film a rebuttal to the questions asked, inject himself into arguments that other candidates engage in and post it on youtube.

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