The “Rand as rabbit” narrative — first one out of the gates and trying to open a big lead early on — will force the hand of other candidates who a) don’t want to cede conservatives in Iowa to Paul and b) don’t want to give up on the idea of Iowa as their springboard to the top tier.

Witness the fact that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who finished first in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, is already slated to appear in the Hawkeye State on April 15. And, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is rumored to be a potential candidate — particularly if fellow Badger Paul Ryan doesn’t run — will be in Iowa to headline a Polk County Republican dinner less than two weeks after Paul visits. (Yes, we know Walker is pooh-poohing the idea of running for president. But, we also know that no politician — repeat: NOT ONE — go to Iowa by accident.) …

“It makes sense he’s moving early to suck up Iowa oxygen, but it doesn’t pose serious problems for the group of more likely nominees like [Jeb] Bush, [Marco] Rubio, [Bobby] Jindal and [Chris] Christie,” said California-based Republican operative Rob Stutzman. “Their early contest will be who gets who on their finance teams.” (We might quibble slightly on Jindal’s inclusion on this list since he lacks the national profile of the other three.)