Yes, owning the issue of privacy and the right to be left alone is unlikely to put Paul in the mainstream of the GOP – it scores better with Independent voters than Iowans, after all. Paul’s point all along has been that this degree of collection is unnecessary and overly invasive, and on that the American people seem to agree with him. (Ron Wyden has actually been making the more significant point, which is that the federal government’s push for the requirement of back doors for law enforcement’s own use is putting all of us at risk, but a fight on that will come later.) Whether that means they will put a priority on this agreement is a different question. Polls on this issue often reveal agreement, but rarely reveal it as a priority for voters. Part of Paul’s campaign is a test to see what resonates, but part of it is just making those issues more present in the minds of Republicans, regardless of his chances at the nomination.
As for the Republican Party: The underlying clash between Lee – arguing for a measure that had 338 votes in the House for it, but does not satisfy Tom Cotton – is a sign that these disputes are renewing with a new generation of Senators, and will be around for a long time to come. Navigating national security issues in the post-Obama, post-Snowden arena is going to be more complicated than ever. The short-term problem for Republican presidential candidates who will emerge to make the case for the level of access and privacy invasion they believe necessary is that they are effectively battling against even modest reforms, supported by plenty of members of Congress, while simultaneously counting on a high degree of trust in the Obama Administration’s effectiveness. Trusting this administration to do their jobs effectively and without trampling on rights and the Constitution along the way has been a risky choice in the past. We’ll see whether the natsec hawks’ faith is rewarded.