Having successfully lobbied his Kentucky’s Republican Party to reform the nomination process for the U.S. Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) can now officially run for both reelection to his seat in the Senate and for the White House simultaneously. Paul is expected to take advantage of this condition tomorrow when he will reveal his intention to mount a presidential campaign in 2016.
“In a nearly three-minute video released on his website Sunday, Paul highlighted his outreach to minority voters, his 12-hour filibuster in 2013 of John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, and his libertarian policies,” Time Magazine reported. “In the promotional video, pundits express their admiration of Paul in a series of montages, and Paul is shown riling up a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February.”
Much has been made of Paul’s ability to appeal to Republican primary voters, and the consensus opinion is that he will have a harder time making his case to a GOP electorate that is significantly more hawkish than it was even just one year ago. But there has been less discussion of the impact that Paul’s outspoken and controversial father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), will play in his son’s campaign.
On Monday, a New York Times report indicated that Ron Paul is expected to be shuffled off to the sidelines while his son attempts to cast himself as a more mainstream Republican office seeker. But, as the report noted, Ron Paul has never the silent type.
Ron Paul, who never had much use for mainstream Republican support and never stood much of a chance at winning the nomination, can be unpredictable. He revels in making provocative statements — which could mean trouble for his son on the campaign trail.
“Ron Paul is a bomb waiting to go off,” said Brian Doherty, an author of a book on the elder Mr. Paul and a journalist for Reason, the libertarian publication. “It would be silly to do this dual campaign thing, and I think they know it. Ron is going to say things that Rand is not going to want to stand behind.”
Ron Paul has said many things that his son would probably rather not be asked about in a presidential run — some as recently as the last few months.
While Paul’s support for an American foreign policy defined by disengagement and retrenchment has softened as the GOP has once again grown more favorable towards interventionism, Ron Paul never moderated his opinions on America’s approach to foreign affairs. The former Texas congressman has defended Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and has blamed the United States for antagonizing Russia in appearances on the Kremlin-funded news outlet RT. He has suggested that the massacre of Charlie Hebdo staffers by militant Islamists was due to Paris’s military support for the toppling of Libyan dictators Muammar Gaddafi. As recently as last month, Paul indicated that the United States held off on the capture of Osama bin Laden in order to have a pretext to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan.
This kind of conspiratorial thinking enjoys some fringe support, but it is positively toxic for Rand Paul and could scuttle his presidential ambitions if his father’s penchant for wild theorizing became widely known. While the media has been keen to overlook the eccentricities of a senator’s father, it’s less likely that the press will give Ron Paul a pass while his son is a declared presidential candidate.