Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul announced Tuesday his intention to seek the presidency of the United States in 2016. He is the second Republican to make it official with perhaps as many as a dozen more to follow.

Is Mr. Paul for real? Does he have a chance at the nomination?

Rand Paul is different. He would never be described “business as usual.” He has established a reputation for standing on principle regardless of how it plays in the media. Mr. Paul would truly rather stand on his beliefs and lose his Senate seat than compromise his principles and stay in office. In the Reagan era that was referred to as leadership.

Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Paul actively reaches out to constituencies often ignored by the GOP. He has fostered inner city programs, spoken to minority groups, and courted the youth at America’s most liberal college, Berkeley. He has an amazing knack for staying true to his conservative and libertarian message without being judgmental or exclusionary. His announcement rally featured a black former congressman, a black pastor, a disabled Veteran, a blind little girl with a big voice, a Latino American and hundreds of young people chanting “USA USA USA.”

It was not the standard Republican coming out party.

Don’t misunderstand, Mr. Paul pushed Reaganesque themes of freedom, less government and economic prosperity. He even referred to Reagan’s concept of peace through strength. But as he talked about personal responsibility and the inherent benefits of work, the five-year U.S. senator managed to sound like an outsider. He spoke of taking Washington back, of canceling NSA surveillance programs, of requiring Congress to read bills before voting on them and of congressional term limits. He captured the essence of “us vs. them”… with us being the people and them being the Washington elite. He was critical of Congress and specifically criticized both parties.

Mr. Paul may have delivered on message, but what about his ability to deliver a ground game? “Stand with Rand” is organized in all 50 states. His Iowa team includes the former chairman of the Iowa GOP, who stepped down specifically to take a position with Rand’s PAC. As far as organization and personnel, no one is better organized that Mr. Paul at this point. His teams are particularly strong in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and even New Hampshire … all key early states.

If Mr. Paul has a strong message, appeals to conservatives, reaches well beyond the common Republican demographic and is organized throughout the U.S., what challenges does he face? It depends on who you ask. Some say he is not particularly warm and fuzzy. The liberal media openly mocks his libertarian views. I’ve even had one Washington insider tell me they are concerned because the taller candidate usually wins the general election and Mr. Paul is only 5‘8”. It seems some people look anywhere for a reason to doubt.

But let there be no doubt. Rand Paul is for real. He has a viable chance of winning the Republican nomination. The Republicans have a deep bench for 2016. There are a variety of solid candidates. For an electorate weary of the Bush and Clinton names, and of “democrat light” candidates however, Mr. Paul just may stand out. He can appeal to conservatives and still draw new voters. His libertarian views appeal to younger voters of all parties and his message of stopping the Washington machine is a populist one that virtually everyone can relate to.

Oh, and he is an inch taller than Hillary Clinton … so the taller candidate doubter can rest easy as well.

It will be a year before we know the GOP candidate. Republicans should rejoice at having multiple strong candidates to choose from. I suggest you watch candidate Mr. Paul closely. He’s full of refreshing surprises.

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