Rand Paul

One Culprit in Rand Paul's Demise: A Unified GOP Congress

Divided government means constant conflict over budgets and debt. Unity? Not so much.

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Smiling all the way to your bank account. ||| ABC News
ABC News

Do you remember those big fights back in late October over just waving away the debt ceiling until March 2017, getting rid of the sequestration cuts and goosing federal spending by $80 billion? Remember how Republicans dug in their heels against free-spending Democrats, dispatching budget-hawk supreme Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to all the Sunday shows to make the principled case for limiting the size and scope of government and keeping crony-capitalist excrescences like the Export-Import Bank safely dead?

Of course you don't remember any of that, because Congress is not divided, Republicans run everything, and as a direct result fiscal conservatism in Washington is once again on the wane. The core issues that first drove the Tea Party, fueled Rand Paul's insurgent 2010 campaign in Kentucky, and kept him reliably in the headlines during the debt ceiling/sequestration squabbles from 2011-2013, are now no longer on the front-burner in the Republican Party or in the political media. Paul tried to mount a filibuster against the noxious two-year budget deal in late October, but it quickly fizzled. The debt and deficit and nonstop budgetary dysfunction just haven't been a real part of this presidential campaign.

There will be many post-mortems written about Rand Paul 2016, here as elsewhere, and it is always true that the ultimate responsibility lies with the candidate himself. But it's worth pointing out that the political context in which he operated shifted once the GOP took control of Congress and replaced the noisy conflict of divided government with the responsibility-avoidance of backdoor budget deals and last-minute omnibuses. And unlike the other two Tea Party senators in the race, Paul failed to locate a popular counter-narrative in a universe dominated by Donald Trump.

We will see a lot of talk in the coming days that Paul's demise means that his libertarianish issues are dead. While his failure to launch is certainly a key data point, it does not tell the whole story. Consider the top issues for Iowa Republican voters, according to entrance polls conducted by Edison Research:

Government spending: 32%

Economy/jobs: 27%

Terrorism: 25%

Immigration: 13%

Think of how much more we've been talking this election cycle about immigration instead of government spending. At a time when Republican skullduggery has exacerbated an already terrible long-term debt/deficit situation, the fact remains that many voters still care deeply about this, even if official Republican Washington and the 2016 presidential field largely does not. That promises to make an already volatile campaign even more unpredictable.

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  1. Think of how much more we’ve been talking this election cycle about immigration Trump qua Trump instead of government spending.

  2. The GOP loses at least partial control of Congress if Hillary doesn’t win. Even if it’s that big government Democrat Donald Trump in the White House, the Republican brand takes the hit for all the inevitable failures and they lose seats. Once in opposition, the congressional Republicans will find their fiscal responsibility and it will be time for Paul or someone like him to shine!

  3. The cycle will be complete when a Big Gov GOPers wins POTUS, they get their cherished ground war in Iran, spending escalates, big tax cuts return us to $1-2 trillion deficits, oil returns to $120/bbl, the USD plummets, and the voters expel the GOP like in 2006-08.

    This will occur 2017-2020.

    1. So a typical Obama year then.

  4. Our libertarian moment-delivering millennials must not venture out during snowstorms.

  5. Do you remember those big fights back in late October over just waving away the debt ceiling until March 2017, getting rid of the sequestration cuts and goosing federal spending by $80 billion? Of course you don’t remember any of that, because Congress is not divided

    I remember you and Suderman getting all hysterical and saying the republicans should just surrender and give Obama everything he demanded.

    1. If the GOP fights they cannot govern reasonably and get something passed. If they try to get something that Obama will sign onto they are fiscally irresponsible. I would prefer they fight but if the executive is not going to be held responsible for its intransigence on the budget then the GOO is in a no win situation and has no incentive to hold a line.

      1. Their incentive to fight should be to keep from getting thrown out on their asses.

        Cantor was a good scalp. I’d sure like somebody to collect Ryan’s scalp, but I haven’t heard that he is being primaried.

        1. All I am saying is you cannot criticize them for not getting a handle on spending and call them crazy obstructionists if Obama refuses to sign a budget that even suggests staying within the country’s means. They do not have the votes to impose their will on the President and if he escapes criticism for his role in the budget mess then you have accept impasse or surrender.

  6. We will see a lot of talk in the coming days that Paul’s demise means that his libertarianish issues are dead.

    When Iowans put terrorism and immigration in their top 4 issues – two things Iowans should have to fear LESS than most of the land mass – it pretty much DOES mean that libertarian issues mean NOTHING to 98% of the populace.

    The 98% deserve the government-led ass-fucking they so desperately want. Trump, Cruz, Clinton, and Sanders are all capable of delivering such sodomy.

  7. Nothing makes you feel more warm and fuzzy inside than the thoughts of Turtlehead and Eddie Munster colluding with Obama over the nation’s spending.

  8. Rand Paul never recovered from attacking Donald Trump in the first debate. He should have instead countered by going after defunding government entitlement programs for illegals and defunding planned parenthood. And he never went after Christie for giving illegals instate tuition subsidies. Failing to play to the base in any meaningful way he could was suicidal and who ever told him to attack Donald Trump should have been fired after that debate.

  9. Rand Paul never recovered from attacking Donald Trump in the first debate. He should have instead countered by going after defunding government entitlement programs for illegals and defunding planned parenthood. And he never went after Christie for giving illegals instate tuition subsidies. Failing to play to the base in any meaningful way he could was suicidal and who ever told him to attack Donald Trump should have been fired after that debate.

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