As Kentucky Senator Rand Paul launches his presidential campaign, the immediate question that will be on everybody’s mind is, can he do something his father couldn’t do in two attempts – win the Iowa Caucuses ?
There are obvious benefits he will receive from Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Rand Paul will inherit a national fundraising base and grassroots network in a number of early states, but he will also benefit from a seasoned national staff in addition to a handful of Iowans that include former Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker and former Iowa GOP Co-Chairman David Fischer. Spiker and Fischer proved in 2012 that they know what they are doing when it comes to an Iowa caucus campaign.
A number of recent national news articles have commented on the “balancing act” that Paul is attempting in his presidential campaign as he tries to keep the libertarian leaning Republicans his father energized while also reaching out to more mainstream Republicans. As the Republican Party has become more hawkish over the past six months in regards to Iran and the Middle East, Paul’s balancing act has become more difficult.
Bloomberg reported on Monday that a conservative group called The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America is already launching a campaign that essentially says that when it comes to dealing with Iran, Senator Paul is no different than Obama. If you think this will be some short-term effort just to cause Paul some grief as he announces his presidential campaign, think again. There will be plenty of money poured into the effort, and it’s likely that it will be around throughout the campaign.
Running a campaign that broadens one’s reach is always a good endeavor. Candidates do it all the time. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum want to appeal to more people than just social conservatives. Jeb Bush wants to appeal to conservative Republicans as much as he appeals to the moderate wing of the Republican Party. However, just because it’s a well-intentioned endeavor doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work.
At the end of the day, a candidate’s true colors will always show through. No matter how hard a guy like Santorum tries to focus on manufacturing and rebuilding the middle class in America, he will always be known as one of the more staunch social conservatives in the race. It might not be fair, but it is reality.
In this case, Senator Paul will either have to distance himself from his father’s libertarian views or embrace them. Sure, it would be nice to appeal to both segments of the Republican Party, but at the end of the day, or in this case, in the final months before the caucuses, Paul will have to make a choice.
First and foremost, Senator Paul needs to be true to himself. In my opinion, Paul’s best play for his presidential aspirations is to embrace his libertarian roots. Instead of giving you one good reason, how about we start with 26,036 reasons. That is the number of votes that Ron Paul received in Iowa in 2012. In a crowded GOP field that features multiple establishment candidates and scads of social conservatives, instead of 26,036 votes being good for third place in 2012, it may be enough to win the Iowa Caucuses outright in 2016.
What Ron Paul accomplished in 2012 is still impressive. The 26,036 votes account for nearly 22 percent of the entire caucuses vote. Ron Paul also won 16 counties in 2012, but finished a strong second in some of the states more populated counties like Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story.
I also don’t think that Senator Paul has to shy away from his father’s libertarian brand of politics to increase his vote share. One of the main reasons why Ron Paul was able to grow his support in Iowa wasn’t just because he ran a better campaign, but because the issues that he was touting became more main-stream with Republican voters. Many of those same issues remain popular.
Another reason why Paul will naturally attract more voters than his father is his age. At 52, Senator Paul isn’t viewed as some crazy old man running for president, like his father unfortunately was often categorized as being. Essentially, what Senator Paul needs to try to accomplish is to be the same as his father on the issues but with more appealing packaging.
The way for Rand Paul to expand his network isn’t to run away for his father, it’s to embrace his father. Be the libertarian in the race. Not only will it provide Senator Paul with a big base of support, but it will also allow him to better message to younger voters while also appealing to the more contrarian voter who is always looking for a good fight.
Survey the recent headlines. There are signs of weakness from Paul as he tries to be all things to all people. Doing so not only generates negative news articles, but also allows his opponents to easily attack him. However, if Paul were to embrace his libertarian roots, there are not many candidates in the field that have what it takes to win that kind of argument or wage the type of campaign it would take to beat him.
The more libertarian-leaning Senator Paul becomes, the better his odds of winning Iowa.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com