Republican dark horse in 2016?


It is obvious that Kentucky senator Rand Paul has, like so many others in the Republican party, presidential ambitions that are likely to manifest itself in a run in 2016. The reason is that if you miss that chance, the next best opportunity will be 2024, and that might seem like too long a wait for Republicans who see the demographic shifts working against them.

Florida senator Marco Rubio sees the rapid growth in minority groups, especially among Hispanics, as his path to the nomination and wants to be seen as the Hispanic-friendly face of the party. But I think that more significant is the rapid shift in views of young people on the major divisive GRAGGS social issues (guns, race, abortion, gays, god, sex). Those issues were successfully exploited in the past but can no longer deliver the goods and the party is struggling to figure out how to change its stances without appearing to be too opportunistic. And it is here that Rand Paul has the edge.

Like most observers, I thought of Rand Paul as a long shot. He was elected to the senate only in 2010. Even though he is not as much a party outsider as his father Ron Paul, who was treated by the party like a crazy uncle because of his anti-war views and his economic policies that called for the elimination of the Federal Reserve and the return to the gold standard, Rand Paul is still seen as having somewhat kooky views by the party establishment.

But Rand Paul could inherit the support of the many young people in the party who have a libertarian bent who flocked to the elder Paul’s campaign, confounding the party and media establishment who could not see what was appealing about this 77-year old man, and were concerned that his message did not fit into the narrow bipartisan framework that governs politics in the US.

I had not quite appreciated how significant Paul’s support among the young was until I read an article titled The Awakening by Michael Ames in the April 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine (behind a paywall). He attended the three-day counter-convention organized in Tampa last year by the Ron Paul camp after Paul was denied a speaking slot at the Republican convention because he refused to endorse Mitt Romney. According to Ames, about 10,000 people, mostly young and energetic, attended a We Are The Future rally. The fact that I was quite unaware of this big three-day counter-rally by a very large number of young people during the Republican convention suggests the extent to which the Ron Paul phenomenon was ignored by the media.

These young people are working to try and take control of the party at the state and local level and, as part of something called the Liberty Movement, have made significant progress in doing so in places like Iowa, Maine, Michigan, and Nevada.

Ames says the people at the rally had some of elements of a cult with “patriotic passion and righteous anger heightened by survivalist paranoia”. What makes the group unusual is its political stances that straddle conventional boundaries

The Paulites may oppose government power, but they loathe what currently passes for conservatism even more.

Their loudest jeers were directed not at President Obama and Nancy Pelosi but at Rick Santorum, who over time emerged as the rally’s favored whipping boy. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Rudy Giuliani were all roundly booed.

So where does Rand Paul fit into this?

With his Tea Party and Bible Belt bona fides, [senior Ron Paul campaign advisor Doug] Wead said, Rand Paul may be the only figure who can unite young libertarians with the still powerful evangelical base. “There is an almost universal sentiment that Rand is going to run [in 2016] and that he has a real chance.”

Listen closely to Rand Paul and you can already hear him stitching the coalition together.

If the Rand Paul candidacy can tap into this energy while retaining enough establishment party support, he may be the dark horse in 2016, whose strength we may find hard to gauge until the first primaries and caucuses.

Comments

  1. says

    Third party candidate, more likely.

    More good news for whomever the Democratic candidate will be. Of which I am making precisely and exactly zero predictions.

  2. smhll says

    According to Ames, about 10,000 people, mostly young and energetic, attended a We Are The Future rally. The fact that I was quite unaware of this big three-day counter-rally by a very large number of young people during the Republican convention suggests the extent to which the Ron Paul phenomenon was ignored by the media.

    I wonder if he counted them or just accepted an official estimate. I like to hope that it was just 3,000 people moving around a lot. (Wishful thinking on my part.)

    Read something recently about Obama vs H. Clinton that suggested that in an open race for President (with no sitting candidate) that Americans will vote for the less experienced candidate. Apparently we like our candidates new and shiny with very short voting records.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    I’ve heard that, from his voting record, Rand is actually far more the traditional conservative and less the maverick than his father was. I suspect that a lot of his support is of the wishful thinking variety — people who don’t know a lot about him can project any qualities they wish. Which worked pretty well for Obama, actually, so it may work for him too.

    If he were to manage to land the nomination, though (a big win in New Hampshire, maybe?) I imagine one of two things happening. The fundagelical wing of the party wouldn’t stand by and let all their pet social issues get abandoned by both candidates, so they might field their own third party candidate. Or he might tack back to the right some — really, more like revealing his true colors, I suspect.

  4. Mano Singham says

    It does seem to be the case that voters prefer candidates who do not have a long track record in Congress. The last person to make it was Lyndon Johnson and his situation was unusual.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Rand Paul? To quote i>The Castle : “Tell ‘im he’s dreaming!”

  6. Mano Singham says

    While Rand Paul will be able to get the support of the economic conservatism wing of the Tea Party, the allegiance of the religious/social conservative wing will be trickier. We are likely to see him start pandering to the latter in a big way, though he risks alienating some of his libertarian supporters by doing so. It will be a tricky needle for him to thread.

  7. lorn says

    “Rand Paul may be the only figure who can unite young libertarians with the still powerful evangelical base.”

    I don’t see how anyone can bridge the gap between the evangelical need to impose/control what they consider morality through government coercion and the Libertarian desire to leave such matters legally open to improvisation by individuals. The evangelical and Libertarian position seem to be diametrically opposed on the matters of abortion, the sexual politics of who and how you can express love, and what sorts of state sanctioned arrangements are allowed.

    I don’t see how they can conceal those deeply held differences for very long, particularly if the opposition was so rude as to breach those sensitive subjects in a well timed manner.

  8. jamessweet says

    Marco Rubio…wants to be seen as the Hispanic-friendly face of the party. But I think that more significant is the rapid shift in views of young people on the major divisive GRAGGS social issues

    Another problem with a Rubio candidacy is the fact that Hispanics are, collectively, not morons. There’s no doubt that people are more comfortable voting for someone who “looks like them”, this I don’t deny… but if you are a dick about immigration, it doesn’t matter what your skin color is, you’ll still drive away Hispanics.

    I saw a live blog of a journalist who was watching one of the 2012 Republican presidential debates with a group of Florida Latin@ students, all of whom leaned conservative. It was simultaneously face-palming and heart-breaking to hear the students’ reactions as it slowly dawned on them that every candidate was pandering to racist jerks on immigration.

  9. jamessweet says

    Yeah, I was going to say, the fact that Rand Paul talks and acts like a libertarian maverick, but is actually a fairly run-of-the-mill modern Republican (most of the time, that is — I’ll admit there are a few issues where he is right and his party is wrong, but not many), I think that makes him more viable. He is less likely to tip the apple cart than his dad, while meanwhile he provides a whole new angle to swindle people into voting Republican even when it goes directly counter to their interests and those of the country.

  10. Doug Little says

    Yeah I’m with you lorn, I can’t see how the two groups could co-exist as their philosophy is polar opposite when it comes to social issues. You know there is not one bit of compromise when it comes to the evangelicals and I can’t see the libertarians abandoning core principle to capitulate to the religious right.

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