This weekend, Sen. Rand Paul will headline a “conservatarian” conference in San Francisco. So, just what is a conservatarian? Hard to say…

[David] Boaz—the leader of the premiere libertarian think tank in the country—had never heard of the term “conservatarian,” and threw some cold water on the idea that this type of libertarianism is a novel idea for Californians.

Which brings us back to the original question—is “conservatarianism” a new, tech-minded branch of libertarianism, or is it the same old philosophy with a shiny new buzzword?

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Potential GOP presidential contender Rand Paul said Wednesday that no one should question Israel’s actions in a time of war.

“I wouldn’t question what they need to do to defend themselves,” the Kentucky Republican told conservative radio host Glenn Beck on “The Blaze.” “These are difficult decisions people make in war when someone attacks you. It’s not our job to second guess.”…

“The first thing I do is say absolutely no money goes to Hamas, no foreign aid gets in the hands of Hamas,” Paul responded. He added that he’d make sure Israel’s defense was well-supplied and funded — and even proposed an Iron Dome equivalent for the United States.

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Paul has donned a yarmulke and danced to Hebrew songs. He has prayed at the Western Wall and visited a prominent New Jersey yeshiva (a religious school where a major GOP contributor served as his tour guide). He’s dialed into one of the country’s most popular Jewish radio programs and held off-the-record conference calls with Jewish leaders across more than 30 states. He has introduced pro-Israel legislation (title: the “Stand With Israel Act”), speechified about it in the Senate, and, relentlessly, sought a private audience with the wealthiest and most influential Jewish Republicans in the nation…

The charm offensive has two goals at its core. The first is to try to establish Paul in the foreign policy mainstream of Republicanism, particularly on the signal issue of Israel, which is of key importance to both Jewish voters and evangelical Christians. The second is to win over, or at the least neutralize, the moneyed class of hawkish Israel defenders—free-spending billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer chief among them—who Paul’s advisers know represent among the most significant impediments to his becoming the party’s next standard-bearer…

“I’m not buying it,” said Elliott Abrams, who served as a top national security adviser to President George W. Bush and is now a senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations. Paul and Abrams had a private sit-down on Capitol Hill last fall. “You can’t be an isolationist and credibly pro-Israel. The idea that you’re isolationist for every other country and every other issue in the world except Israel just is not persuasive.” (Paul, for his part, vigorously rejects the “isolationist” label.)…

As former Sen. Norm Coleman, an RJC board member and influential Jewish political figure who has been courted by Paul, said, “He’s doing a very good job clearing up the perception that he’s not his dad.”

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Perhaps more interesting than this hawks-versus-libertarians dispute, which is an old argument, is who Paul’s antagonists have been. Both Perry and Cruz are politicians who’ve long been associated with the Tea Party, as Paul has. Perry, in his ill-fated 2012 campaign, warned of “military adventurism,” called for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and advocated cutting off aid to Pakistan. Cruz was lumped in with Paul in the category McCain derided as “wacko birds” after Paul’s 2013 drone filibuster. Yet both Perry and Cruz are anxious to differentiate themselves from Paul by turning him into a peacenik caricature. (As Dave Weigel points out, there is personal animosity behind the Perry-Paul spat.) Paul and his allies, for their part, tend to see a neoconservative conspiracy in the way he’s so often used as a punching bag. In an interview last year, Paul described his antagonists to me as “the perpetual war caucus,” and added, “I think much of their chagrin is they see that we’re winning. They’re on the losing side of history.”

Rand Paul is performing an admirable service for the Republican Party: forcing it to have an uncomfortable family conversation—airing an internal dispute that otherwise might get papered over. A confident and opportunistic politician, Paul is eager to take on his critics; by doing so, he believes he can rid the GOP of the stain of Bush’s policies and expand its appeal among voters alienated by Iraq.

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[I]t’s fallen to Rand Paul to revive his party’s standing with black Americans. After the splashy performances that sealed his reputation (a filibuster here, a standing ovation at Berkeley there), Paul has settled into something of a grind as the rest of the GOP’s presumptive presidential contenders take turns trying to cement themselves as the party’s antithesis to all things Paul…

Rand Paul seems to understand what all of America’s would-be Anti-Rands do not: The GOP cannot content itself with picking up “spare” minority votes here and there, mostly from Latinos, and celebrating the relative handful of black figures who stubbornly insist on being Republican.

As a Floridian Anti-Rand like Marco Rubio can attest, the Republican Party doesn’t really have a generic race problem. Lots of minority voters are simply for what the Democratic Party offers, not against the GOP because it strikes them as racist. Black Americans, however, have a different, distinct experience with the GOP. One minute, they were the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower. The next, they were the party opposed to the Civil Rights Act. No amount of theorizing or intellectualization can get around the impact of that change…

If the GOP’s contending candidates won’t at least accommodate his politics of race, the Anti-Rand who rises to the top faces the discouraging prospect of appearing to oppose them. In that case, defeating Paul will come at the cost of losing to the ghost of Goldwater.

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In a brief speech before a panel moderated by Nicole Austin-Hillery of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, the Kentucky senator and libertarian icon called the criminal justice system the “largest impediment to voting and employment in this country.” The U.S legal system, he said, has trapped many nonviolent felons in a place where they “can’t vote and can’t work.”…

Traditionally, the politics of enfranchising felons has fallen along partisan lines. Democrats want to expand the electorate, and Republicans want to restrict it. But Paul’s advocacy for allowing felons to vote seems to be based mostly on conscience. After all, there can’t be much political gain in appealing to a class of citizens who aren’t yet able to vote…

Instead, the voting rights advocacy puts Paul in a unique position moving forward. Increasingly, the Kentucky Republican seems to be pushing a libertarian brand of compassionate conservatism—without the big-government trappings of the Bush era. His emphasis on issues such as felon voting and the plight of Christians in the Middle East is designed to resonate with evangelicals without alienating moderates. It’s not entirely clear what the ideology of a Rand Paul Republican would look like in 2016, but as Tuesday’s event shows, it certainly won’t look quite like the platform of any other politician.

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Early polls of the 2016 contest have shown Paul leading about half the time in New Hampshire and generally running toward the front of the pack in Iowa as well. Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) both led these two states early on but have since seen their support fall off (thanks toe Christie’s bridge scandal and Rubio’s dabbling with comprehensive immigration reform), and nobody else is as consistently toward the top in both states.

It’s very rare that a presidential candidate excels in both of the two early states, given Iowa is dominated by evangelical Christians and New Hampshire has a more moderate bent. And it’s generally assumed that any candidate who wins both of would likely end the race right then and there — as was (essentially) the case on the Democratic side in 2004 with John Kerry.

Paul’s unusual profile appears to have appeal to these disparate constituencies. He has spent considerable time appealing to the kind of Christians you’d see in Iowa, but his libertarian streak fits nicely with New Hampshire as well. He talks to both tea party crowds and to non-traditional Republican groups, including historically black colleges…

Paul isn’t the only one who could seems capable of pulling off an unprecedented two-state sweep, but for now, he seems to have the best chance.

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Via Reason TV.