Rand Paul: I think Republicans may have over-emphasized voter fraud

Via WaPo and RCP, another nugget mined from yesterday’s chat with Axelrod in Chicago. As with abortion, Paul’s “different kind of Republican” brand requires a compromise here. He knows that most voters, including those in his own party, support voter-ID laws; he also knows that those laws are easily demagogued as racist by lefties, which means that toeing the GOP line too closely could jeopardize Paul’s effort to connect with black voters. What’s a different kind of Republican to do? He insists that ID is a good idea — “I don’t think dead people should vote” — but concedes to Axelrod that the GOP has over-emphasized it in light of some data suggesting that actual fraud is negligible. (There are, however, many millions of invalid voter registrations on the books.) What did people expect him to say? He’s already come out in favor of restoring voting rights to nonviolent felons. He also says here that, unlike many GOPers, he supports early voting. All of this will be useful to him if/when Democrats start in on him for questioning the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He’s building a defense to racism charges and distinguishing himself from his party, which is unpopular with the constituencies he’s trying to appeal to, at the same time.

Anyway. While we’re on the subject of Paul oppo research, that Mother Jones piece that I mentioned earlier is blowing up among lefties, who seem convinced that Paul is now DOA in the primaries because he — gasp — noted that Jimmy Carter kept spending lower than Reagan. Is that right? Which of his opponents, please tell me, is going to attack him for complaining that federal spending has been too high, even under conservative leadership? It’s okay to criticize even Reagan so long as you’re attacking from the right; if you don’t believe me, stop and think how many Republicans you’ve heard say in the past year alone that we can’t afford a repeat of the 1986 amnesty that Reagan signed into law. If Paul’s comments about Carter and Reagan end up giving him trouble, it won’t be because he dared to question the Gipper. It’ll be because, allegedly, they’re further evidence of Paul’s foreign-policy weakness: The reason Reagan spent more, Paul’s critics will say, is because he was hellbent on bringing down the Soviet Union in a way that Carter never was. Deficit spending is lamentable but defensible if the cause it serves is noble enough. Would President Paul have refused to spend the necessary dollars even if it meant a reprieve for the failing Soviet Union? In that case, perhaps he’s too dovish after all. That’ll be how the Carter/Reagan comments are spun, if anyone even thinks to attack him on it.