Friday, April 10, 2015

Is Rand Paul Crazy Like A Fox?

The day Rand Paul launched his campaign, it looked like it had turned into a dumpster fire in record time.  His campaign video got locked from YouTube for using copyrighted music without permission and his website was full of embarrassing typos as well as stock photos purporting to be those of his supporters.  Since then he has been extremely dickish towards reporters (especially women) who dare to ask him tough questions and his campaign has sued TV stations running ads about his old statements on Iran.  One might think that his campaign is an attempt to make Ted Cruz look sane.

To quote the bard, he may be mad, but there is method to it.  Paul knows that if he has any chance to win the Republican nomination, or even come close to it, he can't try to beat the establishment at its own game.  He has to win over the conservative wing and gain some others in the bargain, and after this week he is actually stronger rather than weaker in that regard.  As far as the conservatives go, Paul's quarrels with the media are the reddest of red meat.  It is a matter of conservative orthodoxy that the media is a den of liberals out to destroy them, and by being combative Paul is giving Right wingers something to root for.  Instead of trying to win the press with charm, a la John McCain, Paul using it as a foil.  If the major news outlets get upset, that only helps him.  Are GOP voters actually going to care what anyone besides Fox News thinks of him?

Paul knows that his appeal is in being an insurgent, so why play the same game someone like Jeb Bush is playing? Paul also has another potential trick up his sleeve, namely the Republican attempt to make 2016 about foreign policy.  This is more a desperate attempt to distract voters from the improving economy than anything else, and his want much saber rattling on the Right.  While Paul has been desperate to walk back prior criticism of Israel and American militarism, he is still the one Republican candidate not in thrall to neo-con orthodoxy.  He is surely aware that despite the party line, most Americans have tired of war and international adventures.  Promising more of them is hardly a viable electoral strategy.

I actually see Paul as a potentially very strong candidate.  He can grab multiple Republican factions, including the hardcore libertarians, the closeted isolationists, and the broader conservative wing tired of the establishment and I am sure well aware that Ted Cruz looks like a complete pompous ass whenever he opens his mouth.  Paul is a bit of an ass himself, but also appears able to communicate with others in a way that Cruz can't.  He has also attempted to reach out to African American voters in an opportunistic but I think considerable way.  In some respects Paul appears to be playing a double game: appealing to the Right while making himself appear to be the candidate best able to appeal to voters who have not been enamored with the Republican party, thereby holding out the prospect that the big money donors just might get behind him.

Folks on the Left, including yours truly, have been having a chuckle at how inept Paul's campaign has looked this week.  Now I am thinking that Paul himself might end up having the last laugh.  Goldwater managed to win the nomination in 1964, and Reagan came close in 1976.  With the public already seeming dead tired at the possibility of a Clinton-Bush election, Paul just might be able to squeak in through unconventional means.  I wouldn't put any money on it yet, but crazier shit has happened more than once.

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