Rand: I’m in it to win it, or I’m not in at all

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) still has the little issue of the Kentucky state law that prevents him from running for both his Senate seat and for the presidency to overcome ahead of a prospective 2016 bid. Before he tackles that problem, however, Paul contends that his primary focus will be on gauging the level of interest in a prospective White House run.

In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Paul stressed that he would not be following in his father’s footsteps – mounting longshot, ill-fated presidential campaigns for the sake of serving as a martyr for the cause of libertarianism.

“If the ideas are resonating—if the ideas look like they have a chance—then it’s much more likely that I’ll make a go of this,” Paul said.

“If it looks like we’re at 1 percent, we’re not in the top tier, and it’s just going to be a quixotic sort of run, then I think it’s not something I want to do just for educational purposes,” he continued. “I would do it to be in to win, and that’s a decision we’re going to have to make later in the spring.”

As The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin noted, Paul is likely to find the support he needs to justify a presidential campaign. As of this writing, Paul secures the support of an average of 8.6 percent of the self-described Republican primary voters (according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls). Of the 12 candidates included in the RCP average, Paul trails only Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

She noted, however, that Paul’s stances are out of step with mainstream Republican thought:

We have noted that Paul has declined steadily over the last year as his stances on foreign policy and policing have fallen out of favor. And this is before rivals take him on for sitting down with Al Sharpton, refusing to repudiate his view to cut aid to Israel (and everyone else) and siding with President Obama on the Menendez-Kirk Iran sanctions. In short, his poll numbers are heading in the wrong direction and his ideas in key areas are not resonating — at least not among Republicans.

It is worth observing, however, that mainstream Republican thought is growing increasingly out of step with the party’s base. Anyone on the ground in Iowa in January of 2012 saw just how organized and dedicated former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) supporters were in support of that famously libertarian candidate. Paul finished in a narrow third place, just behind former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Mitt Romney. Rand Paul already commands a base of support far broader than his father’s, but with a similar passion and loyalty.

Unless Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is defeated in her bid for reelection this November, the major obstacle before Rand Paul will almost assuredly be his having to choose between the Senate and the White House. The GOP already missed their opportunity to retake control of the state’s General Assembly from Democrats, and the law preventing Paul from running for two offices simultaneously will probably not change before 2016.

As for support among Republicans, Rand Paul will have more than enough to justify a presidential bid.