The Rand Paul Candidacy for the Republican Nomination Is Over
The Iran deal presents Republicans with a sharp binary choice. Line up with President Obama in support of a treaty achieved mostly by American concessions that puts Iran on the path to an internationally accepted nuclear weapon sometime in the 2020s? A treaty that bypasses Congress’ role and that is opposed by every U.S. ally in the region, including but not limited to Israel? No cash prize for predicting how the Republican primary electorate will align.
In the middle of Obama’s tenure, Rand Paul achieved for himself a standing within the GOP that eluded his father by focusing less on international security and much more on domestic surveillance. So long as as Congress was debating NSA and TSA, rather than Russia and Iran, Paul found a considerable constituency inside the party for his distinctive ideology. Now the spotlight shifts to Iran, Russia, and nuclear proliferation. Paul will either find himself isolated with the old Ron Paul constituency—or he’ll have to find some nimble way to jump to the “anti” side of the Iran deal. (Perhaps he will emphasize the slight to Congress it represents?) If he opts for the latter approach, however, he becomes just another Republican voice among many competing to voice their opposition, and one less powerful and credible than, for example, Ted Cruz will be.