A short video appeared on Rand Paul’s Facebook page on Monday featuring his silhouette and the message “On April 7, a different kind of Republican will take on Washington.”
Let me be the first to say that I can’t wait for Rand Paul to officially begin competing for the Republican nomination to run for President of the United States. Aside from the highly entertaining political theater that now awaits us all, we’re going to get to watch the rest of the GOP candidates figure out what to do with the noteworthy outlier who has added significant dimension to the big tent of the party.
Paul’s rapid political ascension is largely attributed to his willingness to be the guy who will tell it like it is – and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be the son of two-time Republican Presidential candidate and long serving Congressman, Ron Paul. Now with four years of Congressional service under his belt, he’s ready to “defeat the Washington machine and unleash the American dream.”
Many would be right to question whether or not Paul can generate the support he needs to survive the Republican primary. His political opinions have garnered him support from both the far-left and far-right, but with that has also come the perception of trying to be everything to everyone with an anti-establishment cherry on top. I’d argue that this is a recipe for failure, and poll numbers currently reflect this.
Right now, he’s polling below 11% in New Hampshire and below 9 percent in Iowa. In 2012, his father earned 23% of the vote in New Hampshire and 21% in Iowa, so there is a clear disconnect between his brand of politics and the path forged in these states by his father not so long ago.
I contend that this is in large part due to his efforts over the last year to appeal to more conservative voters, and flip-flopping on his past positions.
For example, he signed Senator Cotton’s letter that was designed to damage President Obama’s negotiations with Iran – but not before being supportive of the President’s efforts. He’s now called for more airstrikes against ISIS – but not before having previously stating a desire to not fight the terrorist group. He also once wanted to phase out all foreign aid – which would have included our support to Israel – but has evolved on the matter quite a bit. On the first day of the 114th Congress, he filed a bill called the “Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015.” The filing came just hours before a meeting he had with some of our nation’s most wealthy and influential Jewish GOP donors.
Not only does Paul now face the challenge of reversing an eroding libertarian base, but he must also face the left-leaning perceptions that surround him as well. There is data that shows that Paul would be more liberal than any Republican since Richard Nixon on social and military issues. If you add that to his far-right fiscal views, then what you have is a Rubik’s Cube of a candidate – rather, a big identity crisis that is virtually impossible for any voter to untangle.
At present, Paul is trailing behind both Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in the polls, and while it’s too early in the game to say that this won’t change, conservative forces are hard at work to undermine his run.
The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America has already started running a negative ad against him in the first four early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) that ties him to President Obama’s policy on Iran.
While I can’t remember the last time a presidential candidate’s announcement day was met with a $1 million attack ad buy, I can say that this is only the beginning of what is sure to be one of the loudest and most divisive presidential campaign cycles in American history.