How Rand Paul's outreach could pay off in 2016

Second, mountains of evidence indicate that rank-and-file Republican voters have shifted precipitously in recent years toward Paul’s noninterventionist foreign policy stance and are now much more skeptical of government programs that infringe upon liberties.

In short, most GOP strategists agree, Rand Paul’s views on these matters are no longer outside the mainstream of Republican politics.

“He is the default leader on privacy in the Republican Party, and I think there’s a big segment of even the conservative primary electorate who are against big government and the nanny state and are very appreciative of Sen. Paul’s comments,” said Vincent Harris, a veteran GOP digital strategist who counts Texas Sen. Ted Cruz among his current clients. “I think it’s a positive in a presidential primary.”

Paul’s trips to college campuses aren’t merely efforts to woo young progressives who have soured on the Obama administration. At Berkeley, for instance, he was a guest of the College Republicans group there — a core constituency that he hopes to mobilize in key primary and caucus states. In winning the presidential straw poll at CPAC earlier this month, Paul’s strength among the younger set of right-leaning activists — many of whom offered praise for, rather than condemnation of, Edward Snowden — was clear.