GOP Establishment Declares War On Rand Paul’s 2016 Ambitions

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 7, 2014. Friday marks the second day of the annual Conservative Political Action C... Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 7, 2014. Friday marks the second day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which brings together prospective presidential candidates, conservative opinion leaders and tea party activists from coast to coast. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) MORE LESS
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The GOP establishment is wasting no time declaring war on Rand Paul’s presidential ambitions as the Kentucky senator drops a trail of clues that he’s eying a 2016 run for the White House.

The base’s attraction to the son of libertarian iconoclast Ron Paul came into focus last month after the younger Paul won the CPAC straw poll — an imperfect but notable test for president candidates — by a commanding margin. Last weekend, Paul spoke to conservative activists at the Freedom Summit in the key state of New Hampshire about the future of the GOP, telling them the party must win over blacks and Hispanics. His overtures have irked establishment figures, many of whom want to keep Paul as far away from the nomination as possible.

Their beef has a policy flavor and a “winnability” flavor.

Military hawks in the Republican tent resent Paul’s anti-war, anti-intervention, anti-surveillance views. In recent days, they’ve attacked Paul for recently unearthed comments he made in 2009 suggesting former Vice President Dick Cheney used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq and potentially enrich his former company, the defense contractor Halliburton.

National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Paul’s remarks with the “anti-Bush Left,” arguing in a Tuesday piece that the senator’s “instincts sometimes seem more appropriate to a dorm-room bull session than the Situation Room.” Lowry wrote that Paul’s foreign policy views reflected “dewy-eyed foolishness” and were out of step with the party’s mainstream.

A pair of posts at the neo-conservative accused Paul of “courting the truther vote,” referring to conspiracy theorists who believe the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The website made clear it wasn’t accusing Paul of being a truther, but argued he was playing to the “far left.”

Policy aside, Republican strategists worry that Paul’s history of shady associations and off-color comments make him unelectable.

“He has significant liabilities,” said John Feehery, a Republican operative turned lobbyist. “His father casts a big shadow over his future ambitions. His wholesale attack on the NSA is irresponsible and counter-productive. The pro-Israel wing of the party fundamentally distrusts him.” Feehery allowed that Paul has “shaken up the establishment” on matters like drug laws and has been a “good team player,” making him a “potential leader of the party in the future.”

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal wrote a satirical column on Monday saying Republicans should nominate Paul for president, “Because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat. When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.”

Keep in mind, this is just the beginning. The GOP establishment war on Paul’s ambitions is likely to intensify as the presidential primaries near. As Slate’s Dave Weigel reports, Paul’s problems extend beyond his problematic comments in the past — calling into question the validity of the Civil Rights Act, for instance. His family has a history of dark associations involving racist newsletters and donations from white supremacists, all of which can be deeply damaging to the junior senator on the presidential stage.

“The jackals run loose, and they know where to hunt,” wrote Weigel. “Years of experience and evidence tell us that Paul can be rattled by that.”

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Notable Replies

  1. “…he’s eying a 2016 run for the White House…”

    Because America needs the vision of an amateur ophthalmologist with plagiarism issues.

  2. Both Paul and Cruz are far too egocentric to listen to the GOP brass and resist a run. Both will run, both will dominate their individual constituencies–that would be the “Young Conservatives Who Like Pot & Hate Minorities/Black Helicopter Psychos” Wing and the “Aging Frightened Raging White People”–neither will get the nomination, each will permanently damage whichever gubernatorial empty-suit to whom the Brass assign the chance to get his ass kicked by Hillary. Brass is hosed: who they gonna run? Kasich? Little Scottie Walker? Puh-leeze.

    Hillary wins in '16. Very possibly, absent a major electoral catastrophe, in '20 as well.

  3. No one has written the answer down for him, so he doesn’t know if it looks better like this, or like this.

  4. I’m still betting on Team Crazy finally getting the nominee they want and deserve. The base wants it and the Conservative Entertainment Complex that controls the base seems deadset on destroying every establishment pol that looks like they’re threatening to run. Over the next year and a half, I expect the crazy to go into overdrive. It’s incredibly likely Hillary will be the nominee (there’s no one out there who has the ability to topple her like PBO did in '08), and if Republicans are still polling way behind her, they’re going to want to nominate someone who’ll go at her with with BENGHAZI, Vince Foster, Monica, etc. They’re not going to want someone who punts on these things. Only Team Crazy will be willing to do that with the sort of recklessness the TP craves.

  5. Avatar for jep07 jep07 says:

    “as the Kentucky senator drops a trail of clues”

    reminds me of a rat terrier my neighbor used to have…

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