I'll give him this -- he believes a little more of what he says than most other Republicans. But in the Valley of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king!
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky declared himself a candidate for the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday, aiming to upset the political order in Washington and disprove those in his own party who doubt that a fiercely libertarian conservative can be a serious contender.
“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Mr. Paul wrote in a post on his website on Tuesday.
Mr. Paul’s brand of politics could make him both an outlier and a target among his rivals. In a primary contest of candidates debating which of them is the most doctrinaire conservative, Mr. Paul is likely to be the only one arguing for reducing federal drug penalties, clamping down on the nation’s intelligence agencies and taking a more deliberative approach to military intervention.
On social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, however, he does not stray from the Republican Party line.
Mr. Paul, 52, becomes the second Republican to enter the 2016 campaign, following his colleague in the Senate, Ted Cruz of Texas.
Everyone on the Paul team, and non-team observers on the ground in early states, agree that, despite scattered early defections, the vast majority of the “Ron Paul vote” is indeed still there for Rand Paul to build on. His campaign crows that he’s the leading Republican in one-on-one polling against likely Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton—at 41.8 percent—though he’s still losing in most states. They know the parts of Paul that distinguish him from other Republicans are what have elevated him above his Republican opponents when facing Hillary. What’s succeeding is the cool, interesting, youth appeal Paul who stands up for what one might call the nicer ends of libertarianism, the parts that involve making the government stop doing bad things, like spying, drone-killing on presidential command, and ruining, disproportionately, the lives of poor minorities with drug law enforcement and sentencing.
But the full weight of his libertarian background, his father’s legacy, and his own attempts to hew at least in principle to a consistent ideology, while appealing to a non-ideological mass of voters, will likely prove tricky to navigate. That such a dilemma even exists is something campaign advisors specializing in early states Iowa, New Hampshire and on the sensitive foreign policy beat didn’t acknowledge head-on in interviews this week.
Mike Biundo is a senior advisor to the campaign and chief strategist in Paul’s New Hampshire operation. He was Rick Santorum’s campaign manager in 2012, and, from his wide-angle perspective on varied GOP tribes, he argues that “Rand is able to grab from a cross section of the [Party] demographic and expand even beyond that” in a state where independents can vote in the Republican primary.
Biundo thinks all sorts of Republicans and non-Republicans will be attracted to the basic Paul message. “Going directly after the Washington machine, with issues like term limits and the balanced budget amendment, those resonate across the Party, and talking about the middle class and working families” goes even further.