A recent Los Angeles Times story by Lisa Mascaro argues that “After sagging in fundraising, Rand Paul 2.0 reboots campaign.” The thesis is that the Kentucky Republican is failing to gain traction with GOP conservatives and is consciously trying to re-align himself with libertarian-leaning voters.
“Out of necessity he’s moving back to his base, which is a sign the strategy he adopted was the wrong strategy,” said Aaron Day, chairman of the New Hampshire chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a nationwide libertarian-leaning organization within the GOP. “He needs the grass-roots — and they know this now.”
That’s something Paul’s people say just isn’t true:
Rand’s campaign denied any rebooting of his message or positions, and insisted that he never intended to replicate the campaigns of his father, the former Texas GOP congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. “There has been no change, no pivot,” said campaign manager Chip Englander. “He has the same view he’s always had.”
As a matter of fact, on a bunch of recent issues, Paul has been very close to other, more-consciously conservative Republican candidates than to any vision of libertarianism. His response to the murder of a San Francisco woman by an illegal immigrant, for instance, was to denounce “Sanctuary Cities” and support an onerous surveillance program. He’s against the Iran deal. While he was quick to call for yanking the Confederate battle flag from public grounds, he was slow-to-never in challenging Donald Trump’s moronic view of Mexican immigrants as mostly criminal or to issue a statement about the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage (he eventually said he wants to privatize marriage). Earlier in the year, he supported more defense spending than a couple of GOP hawks (albeit, Paul wanted to pay for the increases with offsets elsewhere in the budget).
Which is to say that despite his clear libertarian-ish leanings, Paul is hardly covering himself in glory when it comes to being a consistent champion of libertarian ideas and policies in the GOP presidential race. Many times, he seems to be the sixth or seventh or 10th candidate in a crowded field to come along with a pretty-conservative take on an issue of the moment.
This is doubly frustrating for those of us pushing for “Free Minds and Free Markets.” First, because we want a champion in the GOP (and the Democratic Party too) that is unapologetically socially tolerant and fiscally responsible. Second, because Rand Paul will never rise to the top of the heap by being a distant echo of awful big-government conservatives rather than a clear choice for voters sick of the past 15 years of screwups and overreaches by Republicans and Democrats alike.