by Reed Galen
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Days Until Iowa Caucus: 299
Officially Declared Candidates:
· Sen. Rand Paul (R)
· Sen. Ted Cruz (R)
· Dr. Ben Carson (R)
· Sen. Jim Webb (D)
Quote of the Week: “Two roads diverged in a wood and, I/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Why the Singularity?
· The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.
· There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.
· The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.
Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.
Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
This Week: Understand(ing) Rand Paul
Yesterday, standing in a ballroom in the aptly named Galt House Hotel, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), announced his candidacy for President of the United States. For a campaign that boasts it will be the most technologically advanced in history, it was a very traditional rollout. In their defense, doing a Google Hangout with the press and a bunch of people in their basements wouldn’t have the same effect.
In broad terms, Paul laid out his vision for the country and the planks of his campaign. On the surface, his platform should appeal to many Americans: Smaller government, less money for foreign aid and rebuilding our roads and bridges.
Those ideas have put Rand Paul squarely in the crosshairs of the establishment. His speech opened with an attack on everyone: Republicans, Democrats and special interests – and was decidedly populist in tone. If he is able to grow his support past those who consider themselves true libertarians, he will be an interesting candidate in 2016.
You can watch Paul’s speech here.
Here’s a closer look at where he stands and how it might play out in the next nine months.
What I Am Is What I Am
Rand Paul wasn’t supposed to be elected in 2010. He wasn’t the Republican Establishment’s choice for Kentucky’s open US Senate seat. But seizing on the Obamacare backlash of that year’s mid-term election, Paul found himself a member of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.
Much like Sen. Ted Cruz, though, Paul is not one to stand on tradition or ceremony. Since taking office, more often than not, he has been his own person – a hybrid “Conservatarian” – speaking out on foreign aid, drone strikes and the NSA, much to the chagrin of his Republican colleagues. And from all appearances is happy with who he is.
If this were 2000, and not 2015, we’d likely call Rand Paul a “maverick” – but John McCain would stomach that and he wasn’t a fighter pilot, so we’ll have to come up with another name.
Six Degrees of Separation
And while Paul is known for taking positions outside the mainstream of his party, his platform was generally a rehash of standard Republican and conservative dogma: a flat tax, school choice, smaller government, reducing the corporate tax rate, the virtues of hard work, and the threat of radical Islam. Most of these are things that activist caucus and primary voters are looking for – they need to know you check many of the same boxes they do.
In the months since his proto-campaign swung into gear, Paul has attempted to moderate some of his positions – mostly as relating to national security. But they won’t go far enough to prevent the rest of the field from zeroing in on him in debates or on the trail. During his speech, where Paul often displayed a great deal of passion, but when it came to security and defense, he was decidedly more monotone – “I have to get through this part so just let me do it quickly,” was what his tenor said to me.
In order to win the Republican Primary, and ultimately the presidency, Rand Paul will have to create a new coalition. Much like his father in 2008 and 2012, Paul appeals to younger voters with his “what you say on your cell phone is none of the NSA’s damn business,” rhetoric.
And much like Barack Obama in 2008, Paul will have to encourage voters whom have either never attended a caucus or pulled a voting lever, to believe in him enough to actually get off the couch and do something. He will need African Americans, Latinos, disaffected Democrats, and many more members of the kaleidoscope of the disenfranchised to stand up for him and with him.
This group is likely a unique mix of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and those whom claim no label. That is no mean feat in a state like Iowa, where most of its 120,000 or so caucus goers will be older, whiter and more socially conservative. Paul will have to convince thousands of kids from Iowa and Iowa State to show up to local churches or VFW halls and hang around for hours, while they complete the arcane process of choosing a winner.
R + (T+C) + M = X
R = Ron Paul Supporters
T = Turnout
C = College Students
M = Modeling
X = Winning Coalition
Watch Sasha explain his math here – courtesy of Bloomberg Politics.
Passion is not the Rand Paul follower’s problem. Passion can’t be manufactured, but neither is it easily sustained. And a question to ponder for next year: If Rand Paul is not the Republican nominee, where do his supporters go? Many of his dad’s followers went to Barack Obama as they couldn’t stomach the Republican nominees. Will the Paulites of 2016 do the same without their standard bearer?
Fathers and Sons
Rand Paul didn’t mention his father, Ron Paul, by name during his speech yesterday. But the Mr. Magoo like shadow of the father’s campaigns will hang over the Rand Paul campaign. Whereas Ron was passionate about his beliefs, to the point of being ridiculed by his fellow candidates, Rand has chosen to stand a little straighter and smooth off some of the rough edges of his father’s positions.
Just as Jeb Bush will have to contend with what his father and brother said and did during their time in office, Rand Paul too, will have to show that he is his own person. Rand needs to combine the passion of what his dad’s followers brought to his campaigns with proof that he’s mainstream enough not to scare off the regular folk.
Over Here, Over There
For all of the work that Rand Paul has done to reinsert himself into the Republican mainstream, his past positions on foreign military intervention, and his current positions on civil liberties make him target number one for the military-industrial-homeland security complex.
Hundreds of billions of dollars every year are spent on the many of the things that Paul believes are un-American and betray the individual liberty of citizens. Those companies, contractors, consultants and bureaucrats will not go gently into that good night as President Paul attempts to dismantle their gravy trains.
According to Politico, starting today – one group – the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, has launched a million dollar ad campaign attacking Paul for his positions on Iran and attempting to tie him to Barack Obama. This is just the beginning – mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson will be watching closely – if he believes that Paul isn’t 100% committed to protecting Israel, he might well launch his own set of anti-Rand ads.
Is Quasi-Libertarian A Thing?
While Rand Paul’s winning coalition would look different than traditional Republicans, it’s not all that different in practice. He has to hold his base and attract new supporters. The biggest difference is that his base is made up of a lot of libertarians – for whom Rand is their best choice.
And while Rand is for reducing criminal penalties for marijuana and sentencing reform, inline with libertarian orthodoxy, he’ll have to convince them to stay on board if he swings too far to the right. One Rand donor I spoke with is with him specifically on the issue of marijuana. But admitted their support may wane if Paul strays too far into socially conservative issues like gay marriage or abortion.
Next Stop – Rand’s Long and Winding Road
Like Ted Cruz two weeks ago, expect Rand Paul to have a week or so of “clean air” to work with. As he moves through early caucus and primary states, the national and local media will follow him around, giving him a boost nationally and with the voters who will ultimately determine the Republican nominee early next year.
Paul must be able to take full advantage of these next few days to differentiate him from the other candidates and those still to announce. With Senator Marco Rubio’s announcement coming next week, the field will grow more crowded and the political oxygen more valuable and hard to come by. Paul has a unique brand – and what appears to be a true desire to grow the GOP.
But the mixing bowl of a primary campaign can make turn even the most unique campaign upside down. Like all other campaigns, Rand will have to contend as much with the events he can’t control as those he can. Overcoming the skepticism of the establishment, wooing donors and building a new and different coalition are just the beginning of his challenge – and it’s not an easy one.
Author’s Note (2): This series is not in any way related to Harold Hyman’s American Singularity – The 1787 Northwest Ordinance, 1862 Homestead and Morrill Acts and the 1944 GI Bill.