Rand Paul Will Never Be President
I have to agree with the author, while the elder and younger Paul’s strutting rants and theatrics play well in small pockets of ignorance that represent their constituents and supporters, their policy through fear mongering tactics won’t make it to the front once they hit the national stage.
The more the economy improves, the less we have to fear from the followers of populist demagogues like Rand Paul. Perhaps Rand will aggregate a larger percent of the popular vote than his father (was it 3 percent in that last primary?) but he has near zero chance of winning despite all the noise his ardent followers will make.
Rand Paul, president of the United States of America? Unlikely at best.
Paul the Younger hasn’t disguised the plain fact that he’s running for the 2016 Republican nomination for president; he’s already begun making appearances in early primary and caucus states, and this week he started putting in motion the machinery for a presidential campaign. It’s always possible he won’t be running in 2016 - but for now, he’s certainly running for 2016.
And yet … Rand Paul faces very long odds. Perhaps not quite as long as his father did in his numerous presidential runs, but long enough.
There are basically two questions to ask about whether someone would be a viable candidate for a major party nomination. First, a candidate must have conventional qualifications. Paul certainly clears that hurdle, although not all that impressively. By 2016, he’ll be finishing up a full Senate term. That’s a little more than Barack Obama had (presumably Obama’s state legislative service meant little on this score). It’s more than Mitt Romney, a one-term governor, had. It’s the same number of years as George W. Bush, although Bush had the added qualification of having been reelected. So there’s no real barrier there.
But the second question is the one that probably knocks him out: Viable candidates must be within their party’s mainstream on questions of public policy. That’s particularly true for issues over which large, influential party groups can exercise a virtual veto. And that’s what’s extremely likely to happen to Rand Paul in 2016.
There are just too many public policy areas, and too many important groups within the party in those areas, for Paul to really be viable. It’s possible that Paul and Republican Party actors could work out some sort of deal on “war on drugs” issues; after all, there are limited things that a president can do without Congress, so Republicans who favor current drug laws and enforcement strategies might be willing to live with him as long as he signaled that he wouldn’t make it a priority in a Paul presidency. It’s also possible, indeed likely, that on some of the fringe issues where he and most Republicans disagree that there would be no real objection to a nominee who disagrees with them. I think that might be true, for example, on many civil liberties issues. There are, for better or worse, very few people on either side (and in either party) for whom civil liberties is a central issue.