Rand Paul on Criminal Justice Reform
Hillary Clinton, to no one’s surprise, announced Sunday that she’s running for president. Barring catastrophe, she’ll become the Democratic nominee next summer. There is no such clarity on the Republican side, with a new candidate official entering the race every week. But this much is clear: If the GOP want to defeat Clinton next fall, they should turn to the only Republican whose buzz rivals hers: Rand Paul.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. Its base, bolstered by big-tent conservatism throughout the 1980s and late 2000s, is aware of its own image problem: The “Party of No” is on the losing side in the battle for marriage equality, has failed to convince Americans that it has a clearer plan for healthcare reform, and remains tacitly pro-war when the population is interested in a U.S. withdrawal from foreign intervention. Worse yet, its base is aging and isn’t being replaced by younger voters. Libertarianism, however, is on the rise nationally, with 22 percent of eligible voters identifying with the movement in recent polling. Enter Rand Paul, heir apparent to the movement, who pointedly said during in an interview with the Associated Press, “Young people aren’t so wedded to party. The kids are probably adrift somewhat. I don’t think someone who is an authoritarian, or comes from a much more authoritarian point of view like Hillary Clinton, will attract them.” A fresh brand of libertarian-infused conservatism could be the way forward for Republicans looking to woo the youth vote, and Paul sees himself as the person who can provide it.
Rand might be right. While Clinton has overwhelming support from Millennials who grew up under her husband’s administration, the growth of libertarian ideology among young voters may peel away some of Hillary’s reliable supporters, swayed by Paul’s “leave-me-alone-coalition” of voters, reluctance toward the use of military force abroad, support of medical marijuana legislation, his platform position on criminal justice reform, and his sometimes-unpolished appearance in interviews and stump speeches that connote a sense of “realness” that is uncommon in GOP candidates. Paul gains headlines for what he’s not: a non-threatening Republican with a cadre of platform stances that are nearer to obsolescence than relatability. His brand of digestible libertarianism is made for the post-Obama generation. Hillary, on the other hand, is likely seen as a successor of Obama’s administration; she is the torch-bearer that Vice President Joe Biden would be, were he cut out for the presidency. Young voters who came of age during Obama’s two exciting campaigns may find Hillary to be a less magnetic choice compared Paul—if he finds traction with any Republican voters willing to compromise the beliefs of the base for the betterment of the party.
But therein lies the rub. Rand may be the candidate that Republicans need, but not the one they want. He is a dove in a party of hawks; a pro-marijuana legalization advocate in a party that only tacitly embraces reform. He’s a young, vibrant speaker whom Millennials actually listen to (even if he needs to be trained not to lash out at reporters). He doesn’t espouse the conservative boilerplate of his competitors, so he may not stand a chance in Iowa, where his father’s campaign took devastating blows in 2012, or in the GOP primary generally. And yet, polls suggest he would stand a chance against Hillary in the general election. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Paul leads Clinton in both Iowa and Colorado while a national surveys place him only seven points behind Hillary. Paul leads Clinton in current Iowa polling by two to three percentage points. He leads Clinton on head-to-head polls in Colorado as well, a crucial state during both Obama campaigns.
Jeb Bush is seen as the strongest Republican candidate, given his name recognition, relative moderation, and powerful donor base. But it could be tough to convince anyone outside the party to vote another Bush into the White House, especially after the economy is finally showing signs of recovery. Rand Paul, so far, has said all the right things to make the base warm to him: He calls for a balanced budget every year of his prospective administration, wants to curtail government spending, is decidedly anti-bailout, and would gleefully dismantle regulation before he has a chance to take off his overcoat in the Oval Office. What’s more, Paul opposes abortion, would block welfare grants to states, and takes a dim view of marriage equality initiatives. With the waning influence of Evangelical Christians and the wholesale admonishment of neoliberalism by economists, it may be time for the GOP to cater to a fresh brand of conservatism, even if it means shifting what the base considers “conservative enough.” Savvy Republicans would do well to see Paul’s mixture of likeability and base conservative values as a Trojan horse for swing voters, a demographic which might not want to vote for the obstructionist party after two more years with a sclerotic Congress.
The Democrats have paved a clear path for Hillary Clinton. Few serious challengers exist, and those who do—such as Senator Elizabeth Warren—have indicated their deference to the Democratic heir apparent. Make no mistake, Hillary has proven herself worthy of getting the party’s endorsement: She is by far the most experienced campaigner, has a proven track record of foreign policy expertise as secretary of state, and can capitalize on the growth of feminism and gender equality that now permeates American culture. She is, however, the “establishment candidate” when compared to Rand Paul. A war-averse public may not want a president who is so closely associated with the practices of her predecessor, and worst yet, may cringe at how easily Clinton will ascend above her Democratic challengers. That she might not be in the political fight of her life, as she was in 2008, may even dampen the zeal of those who supported her back when Obama was the “outsider” candidate.
American politics is nothing else if not a spectacle machine; that there does not seem to be a major fight brewing for the Democratic nomination could take the wind from Hillary’s sails before August. And with few other signs of life within the broader electorate, the GOP might need to stop worrying about Rand and come to embrace him as their only viable shot at beating Hillary’s campaign juggernaut. After all, Americans do love an underdog.
“I’m starting to worry that when Hillary Clinton travels, there’s gonna need to be two planes – one for her and her entourage, and one for her baggage,” Paul, himself a presidential candidate, said to laughs and applause at the Republican Leadership Summit.
“I’m concerned that the plane with the baggage is really getting heavy and teetering,” Paul added.
Clinton, who announced her campaign last weekend, wrapped up a road trip to Iowa this week by flying coach back to the East Coast and was seen pulling her own luggage.
Senator Rand Paul Presidential Announcement Full Speech
The test of that theory begins Tuesday when the Kentucky senator is expected to make official what has been clear for years: He’s running for president.
“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Paul said on his new website.
A formal announcement will come at a rally in Louisville and he’ll immediately hit the campaign trail, swinging through New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada — the states that traditionally vote first in the primaries and caucuses.
His wife, Kelley, and former Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma will be among the speakers introducing Paul at the rally Tuesday.
So far, Paul joins only Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as a declared candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. But the field is certain to grow in the months ahead with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham and others eyeing a campaign. Marco Rubio, a Florida GOP senator, is expected to launch his campaign next week.
For now, the nomination is up for grabs with no clear front-runner. Paul came in third place at 12% in a CNN/ORC International Poll of Republicans. Bush led the pack at 16% while Walker came in second at 13%.
Ron vs. Rand Paul
Paul, the son of former Texas congressman and three-time presidential hopeful Ron Paul, will build on his father’s legacy as a candidate eager to bring civil liberties to the forefront of the national dialogue. He’s already used his perch on Capitol Hill to draw attention to those issues, including a 13-hour filibuster two years ago blasting the Obama administration’s drone policies and a lawsuit against the National Security Agency’s phone metadata collection effort.
But Paul, 52, will split from his father in one important way: his approach to the campaign. Where Ron Paul often focused on creating a libertarian movement, Rand Paul is planning a more strategic, less purist operation that could have a hope of competing in a general election.
The elder Paul will be at the rally on Tuesday, though he’s not expected to be a public face for his son’s campaign. He’ll attend the event as a “proud papa,” a source close to the senator said.
Elected in 2010 with strong tea-party support, Rand Paul quickly rose to national fame in part due to his father’s back-to-back White House runs in 2008 and 2012, but also because of Rand Paul’s willingness to fight fellow Republicans.
He engaged in a war of words with Chris Christie two years ago over national security and federal spending and, more recently, he’s taken swipes at Jeb Bush over issues like Common Core and medical marijuana.
Still, Paul has carefully worked to form inroads with establishment Republicans and other factions of the party’s base. He’s done so by becoming close political allies with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and backing mainstream candidates who competed against libertarian opponents during last year’s midterms.
He’s also tried to make peace with national security Republicans, taking nuanced positions that try to shed an isolationist label while still showing his apprehension toward foreign intervention. Last year, for example, he supported limited airstrikes against ISIS but vigorously fought against arming Syrian rebels.
While he bills himself as a conservative realist, Paul still tries to wear the mantle as the Republican most reluctant to take the country into war.
War’s ‘unintended consequence’
“I can tell you there will be one loud voice in our party saying, think of the unintended consequence,” Paul said in Iowa two months ago. “Think about what we’re going to accomplish and whether it will work before we go to war.’ I promise you that will always be something I take very, very seriously.”
The cautious foreign policy dance has drawn criticism from his father’s supporters, who say Paul has become too moderate, and from hawkish Republicans who fear he wouldn’t go far enough as commander in chief to tackle problems overseas. Democrats and some Republicans, meanwhile, have accused him of flip-flopping and pandering to donors.
On Tuesday, the Foundation for a Secure & Prosperous America — a hawkish group from the right — released a $1 million television ad buy against Paul’s foreign policy, which hits the airwaves nationally on cable, as well as in the key early states that Paul will visit this week.
“Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous,” says the narrator in the 30-second spot, arguing that Paul doesn’t understand the threat of Iran’s nuclear program. The ad ends with an image of a nuclear bomb detonating.
Responding to the ad, a spokesman for Paul’s team said it the ad demonstrates that opponents feel like Paul is a big enough force to potentially win the election.
Paul is actually running for two offices at the same time, trying to hold onto his Senate seat while also running for president. Kentucky’s election laws say candidates can’t appear on a ballot twice, but with reluctant support from McConnell, a Kentucky powerhouse, the state’s GOP will likely change its presidential preference vote from a primary to a caucus. That would allow Paul to get around the rule.
His interest in the Oval Office has never really been a secret. Shortly after the 2012 presidential election, he started crisscrossing the country to paint himself as a nontraditional Republican eager to court voters who don’t typically live and vote in red areas.
He spoke at historically black colleges and universities, as well as Democratic strongholds like inner city Detroit and the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on criminal justice reform and civil liberties, two issues he believes can bring more people into the Republican Party.
As one of the few national Republicans who went to Ferguson, Missouri, Paul frequently boasts that there is no “bigger defender of minority rights in the Congress” than himself.
But those efforts could prove futile if he can’t get beyond controversial comments he made in 2010, when he questioned parts of the Civil Rights Act, especially provisions that place restrictions on private property.
He’s steered clear of such hot-button issues more recently. Last week, for example, he was one of the few Republicans who didn’t weigh in on religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas that critics argued would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Paul has also worked to maintain a following that includes a large swath of young voters who he partly inherited from his father. Heavy on tech and social media, his political team has opened an office in Austin, Texas, and will soon establish one in the heart of Silicon Valley. Like clockwork, Paul frequently holds up his phone during his stump speech and declares that what people do on their smartphones is “none of the government’s damn business.”
His nontraditional style is complemented by Paul’s wardrobe. The senator is known for wearing blue jeans with boots and a blazer when he’s on the trail, and during the winter, he opts for a turtleneck and sport coat rather than a tie.
But in his quest to become a national figure, Paul’s comments have come under scrutiny and some of his statements have led critics to question whether he’s ready for prime time. Earlier this year, Paul, an ophthalmologist, lent credibility to theories that vaccinations cause mental disorders, and last fall he caused a stir when suggesting that people could catch Ebola at cocktail parties.
And while he’s not media shy—he’s given hundreds of interviews in the past year alone—Paul can get short-tempered with reporters. He shushed a female interviewer in February, and last fall he blew up at a reporter who asked a question about foreign aid to Israel.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul is set to make official a presidential bid that has long been expected, a senior adviser to the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday, pointing to April 7 as the kickoff date.
Paul’s political team has invited backers to a midday event in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The tea party hero was then set to visit the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — familiar destinations for him as has prepared for the formal entry into the race.
The adviser demanded anonymity to speak ahead of Paul’s public announcement. The adviser adds that Paul could still pull the plug on a campaign, although that is not expected to happen.
A spokesman for Paul, Sergio Gor, declined to comment.
Paul would be among the first of the potential 2016 contenders to officially enter the race for the GOP nomination. He begins his presidential campaign as a familiar face among tea party- and libertarian-leaning voters, but also something of an odd-man-out among the establishment-focused corner of the GOP.
Paul’s challenge will be to build backers among his natural base of support in the party while reassuring others that his views on topics such as foreign policy are not too far outside the mainstream. His critics — Republicans and Democrats alike — already have collected dozens of examples of Paul’s rhetoric that they plan to use against him.
Paul will also have to cobble together the tens of millions in campaign donations that the nomination will cost.
Paul has proved a formidable fundraiser, especially from low-dollar and younger donors who back his limited-government pitch. But Wall Street-style Republicans have been rushing to sign up with other likely candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Rubio said he could “potentially” announce a bid in April but that he had not settled on a specific date.
“If you’re going to run for president, you need sufficient time to raise the money and build the organization to be successful,” Rubio said, adding that his decision would come “soon.”
Paul’s timing coincides with both the fundraising and political calendars. The second quarter of political fundraising opens on April 1, and several candidates are looking at formally joining the campaign soon after to take full advantage of the three-month window.
Candidates who join the campaign any time in April, May and June will have to report their fundraising tallies by July 15 and it will be one of the first benchmarks for a campaign’s success. The sooner candidates declare in April, the more days they will have to collect checks.
Easter this year, however, is April 5 and many voters will not be paying attention to politics during that weekend.
Paul’s day job in the Senate is also a factor in the timing. Senators are scheduled to be away from Washington that first week of April, giving Paul a chance to make swings through the early nominating states without missing votes.
Paul’s potential rivals in the Senate, such as Rubio and Ted Cruz of Texas, face similar scheduling pressures. By telegraphing their pick of Tuesday, April 7, at Louisville’s Galt House hotel, Paul’s team was hoping the others would have the courtesy to schedule their likely announcements on other dates.
Paul’s team has planned a New Hampshire visit the day after the Louisville launch. He plans a visit to South Carolina on April 9, Iowa on April 10 and Nevada on April 11.
Details of the kick-off event were first reported by The Lexington Herald-Leader.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called out Governor’s Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush on Twitter Thursday afternoon — but made a glaring error in one of the posts.
The Kentucky senator, playing off news that Romney and Bush were meeting privately, sent out two tweets with the aim of poking fun at them.
“Jeb Bush apparently gave Mitt Romney a ‘third time’s a charm’ bracelet at their meeting in Utah today,” Paul tweeted.
That was accompanied by a Common Core jab at Bush.
“Mitt Romney’s friendship to Jeb Bush at today’s meeting in Utah,” he tweeted.
Immediately after sending the latter tweet, individuals on Twitter ridiculed Paul for misspelling the word “friendship” in the attached graphic. Missing the letter “d,” it was spelled “frienship” instead of “friendship.”
The senator deleted he original tweet, conceded his mistake and attached a corrected image.
“Lay off,” he wrote. “It was a common core post. We don’t have to spell it right!”
Paul, Romney and Bush are all thought to be pondering 2016 White House bids.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the Kentucky Republican told a crowd of supporters in Reno on Saturday that Clinton got cables to protect the consulate in Benghazi but did “nothing.”
Both Paul and Clinton are considering bids for the White House in 2016.
The attacks killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led inquiries have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions.
But a House Intelligence Committee report in November found no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
Paul made a similar campaign-style stop in Las Vegas on Friday.
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is scheduled to visit Nevada this week as he gears up for a possible presidential bid in 2016.
The Republican lawmaker is planning to visit Las Vegas on Friday evening and Saturday morning, although campaign staffers haven’t provided his itinerary for that stop.
He’ll then head up to northern Nevada, where’s he’s hosting a gathering at Campo restaurant in Reno on Saturday afternoon. Tickets for that cost $25 a person, or $250 for sponsor status.
He’s headlining a private dinner at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort on Saturday evening. Tickets start at $500 and go up to $2,600.
Paul is widely expected to enter the presidential race next year, although his wife told reporters last week that they’re not 100 percent sure about a run.
The Washington Post has attempted to write-off Kentucky Senator Rand Paul as a fringe kook for opposing the United Nations’ Small Arms Treaty.
Ezra Klein, who spends a lot of time over at MSNBC with Rachel Maddow and has also appeared with Bill Maher — who has called the Second Amendment “bullshit” — bases his claim on research conducted by Snopes.com, the website specializing in debunking myths.
Klein says the treaty does not pose a threat to gun owners in the United States. He dismisses the email below as “black helicopter stuff from Paul.” Continue reading