The speech itself will start at 11:30 this morning, but like so much of the dramatic set pieces of presidential campaigns these days, the event itself will have an air of anti-climax. After all, it’s not as much of an announcement as it is a change in nominal FEC status. Everyone knew Rand Paul would run for the Republican nomination, as far back as his 2010 Senate campaign.
Releasing this video on Sunday took the anticipation out of this, no?
Noah noted yesterday that Paul has done a good job of firing up conservatives, especially among the grassroots and even more mainstream events like CPAC. He has the same problem as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, though, which is the issue of experience, and it applies even more so to him. Cruz served as Solicitor General in Texas and argued cases before the Supreme Court; Rubio became speaker in the Florida legislature before running for US Senate. Neither have executive experience in political office, but both have more experience than Paul, who’s serving the first term of the only political office he’s ever held. Grassroots support is powerful, but the Barack Obama argument about competence that Republicans have made for the last seven years will hit Paul hardest in the primaries.
Plus, Paul’s father is a loose cannon. His son’s rise to the center of the debate will undoubtedly draw more attention to Ron Paul and his, er, less-than-mainstream views, especially on foreign policy, where Rand Paul is weakest. How long before Paul père starts doing radio hits and talking about how Russia’s revanchism is A-OK, and that Iran’s more trustworthy than Israel? Memorial Day, or sooner? McClatchy’s David Lightman and Sean Cockerham argued last week that Paul would need to escape his father’s shadow quickly, while somehow keeping the elder Paul’s legions of fans engaged:
When Rand Paul enters the Republican presidential race Tuesday, he’ll start with an advantage few of his rivals have: A dedicated legion of supporters, well-organized and battle-tested.
But for the Kentucky senator to have a chance to win the nomination, he’ll have to expand beyond the libertarian army he inherited from his father, and fast. …
Gary Bauer, a conservative activist and former presidential candidate, doesn’t think Paul’s policy shift will convince voters. They’re unlikely to buy his recent push to increase defense spending and create a Middle Eastern nation for Kurds after criticizing American nation-building abroad. Bauer pointed to Paul bashing expected Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last year as a “war hawk” who would scare voters with her interventionism.
“I think odds are overwhelming that the presidential debate will be between a Democratic Party seen as weak on foreign policy and national security and a Republican Party seen as strong on those things,” Bauer said. “And here was Rand Paul positioning himself as the exact opposite.”
Until now, other Republicans have laid off of Paul, in part because he has assumed a quieter role in the US Senate than expected. He backed Mitch McConnell in the 2014 primary, perhaps surprising some who saw him as the anti-establishment figure that Ted Cruz turned out to be instead. That may have built up some credibility in the Senate for Paul, but it won’t mean much once the 2016 presidential candidates all get in the race. At that point, Eliana Johnson writes, the gloves will come off:
Welcome to the big leagues. That’s the message several top GOP operatives say Rand Paul will get from the Republican establishment, and from the media, when he announces his candidacy for the presidency on Tuesday.
These onlookers believe that Paul, who has been a media darling and a ubiquitous presence on the airwaves since his election in 2010, has gotten a pass from the press. In their eyes, he’s been allowed to skate past one controversy after another in part because he’s been a vocal critic of the Republican party.
“The media treats him better than they treat other Republicans,” says a top Republican operative. “He gets a free ride, but that free ride is about to end, because now he’s going to be in the crossfire.” The media haven’t dwelled on Paul’s fringier views, particularly on foreign policy, the operative says, because Paul is an interesting and colorful politician who has been a vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration’s muscular foreign policy. “They felt the same way about Huntsman,” the operative says, referring to former Utah governor and China ambassador Jon Huntsman, whose middle-of-the-road views attracted some attention when he ran for president in 2012.
If the media haven’t obsessed over Paul’s more colorful statements or his more controversial positions, the gloves are bound to come off within the Republican party.
The headline on Eliana’s piece says “the party is ready to attack” Paul, but it’s not attack. It’s debate, and every candidate will get tested by it. Unlike what seems to be shaping up as a coronation on the other side, the GOP will have a competitive primary that forces candidates to hone their skills and their positions. There is a big difference between debate and attack, and Paul won’t even be the biggest target of the so-called establishment anyway — that’s likely to be Ted Cruz. Paul will get “attacked,” as will Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry (perhaps especially), Cruz, Rubio, and all the rest. Hopefully, that process will produce a better candidate. We’ll see.
The anticipation for that process has already begun, even if no one’s on tenterhooks for the individual announcements. And even if nothing about today’s event is surprising, Paul’s presence in the debates holds the promise of more than a few surprises in the fall.
Watch the live stream here: