This is the safe bet, no? Don’t be myopic about it. The base might stand with Rand but it’s usually the dynamic duo of fabulously wealthy GOP donors and easily influenced low-information Republican voters who determine the nominee. The donors are hawkish so the LIVs will probably stay that way too. Which is not to say that I think Christie will be the nominee: It’s more likely to be a middle-grounder who’s generally hawkish but who’s also willing to make libertarian noises sporadically on the way to 2016 in hopes of uniting the party. Too late for Christie to be that guy now that he’s gone and dumped on libertarians’ golden boy.
The numbers: 68 percent of Democratic insiders and 81 percent(!) of Republican insiders see Christie’s national-security approach winning the debate ultimately. My two favorite comments from the NJ piece, just because there’s much truth to both:
“In the pre-Snowden-leak days, this would have been a no-brainer, but the NSA’s dramatic overreach troubles even mainstream Republicans.”
“The world is a dangerous place. When the next attack comes, and it will, do you really think we’ll be having this argument?”
As a gloss on how sharply the GOP is split between Christie-ism and Paul-ism, Quinnipiac asked three questions related to civil liberties and surveillance in its new poll. One was whether the feds have gone too far or not far enough in restricting civil liberties to protect the country; next was whether the feds should or shouldn’t be “scanning” phone calls to see if people are calling terrorists; and third was whether that program is necessary to keep Americans safe or not. The respective splits among Republicans on those three questions: 46/45, 46/47, and 47/46. Only on the fourth question, which asked if the program is too intrusive or not, was there a wide GOP split — 58 percent said it was versus 38 percent who said it wasn’t. But that just illustrates my point up top. Even though Republicans are more sympathetic to libertarian concerns about privacy now, you’ve still got the barest plurality saying that the programs are “necessary.” The eventual nominee needs to split that difference by acknowledging legit worries about civil liberties in the surveillance age, not sneer at libertarianism for being a “very dangerous idea” like Christie did.
Want more data? A little something on this subject from Pew:
The survey also found that Republican voters are divided over the more general question of whether anti-terrorism policies have gone too far in restricting civil liberties, or not far enough to protect the country. Nearly half (46%) say their bigger concern is the impact of anti-terror programs on civil liberties, compared with 38% who say they are concerned that the policies have not gone far enough to protect the country.
Rand Paul’s favorability rating is 21 points higher than Christie’s among Republican voters who say their greater concern is that anti-terror policies have gone too far in restricting civil liberties (63% vs. 42%). Their favorability ratings are comparable among those whose bigger concern is that policies have not gone far enough in protecting the country (53% favorable for Christie, 47% for Paul).
Christie’s suffering among civil-libertarians but Paul is not suffering among more hawkish types who actually want a more robust counterterrorism apparatus. Could be that’s a function of Paul not yet having been attacked systematically on national security by other GOPers the way he will be during a primary, but maybe it’s also a function of even hawks thinking we should be paying closer attention to where the surveillance state is headed. You can, in theory, believe that we should be doing more on counterterror while also worrying that each new step raises the risk of serious abuse. Whether you think Rand’s view of this will finally prevail or fail, the days of GOP candidates blithely dismissing privacy concerns as a form of crankery are over.
Exit question: Second look at neoconservatism now that, er, David Brooks has embraced it? He says it’s time to re-adopt a 1980 mentality, back when conservatives kinda sorta defended the New Deal, and specifically mentions food stamps. I thought the whole point of the past five years was that current federal spending, specifically in terms of entitlements and the welfare state, is ruinously unsustainable. But maybe Brooksy’s going to figure out a solution.