Is Rand Paul now the Republican frontrunner?

Is Rand Paul now the Republican frontrunner? Rand Paul has long been considered a long shot to gain the Republican nomination for president. His views on national security and civil liberties put him at odds with much of the conservative base of the GOP, while his views on social issues don’t go far enough left to attract moderates and Libertarian leaning voters from outside of the party. Additionally, his views on the role of government being a more limited one in general turn off a lot of people on the left hand side of the political spectrum who would like to see large government programs expanded--it’s no coincidence that one of their leading candidates is an unabashed Democratic Socialist.

However, recent events have conspired to aid the Kentucky Senator’s bid, both political issues and the nomination process have allowed him to take the spotlight, as well as to make it more likely he will win some very important states, including some early contests. While he is still having trouble attracting donors from the right, he is certainly getting at least as much press as the other candidates, and certainly much more of it is positive than the others.

The most important way Paul has garnered a lot of positive attention, both from the press and the general public, was his very public stand against members of his own party as well as Democrats with regards to the Patriot Act. He filibustered an extension and was, by far, the most instrumental player in its expiration Sunday night. His stance against the worst governmental policy of the millennium thus far has made him the champion of civil liberties that people from all across the political spectrum have been clamboring for since the act's inception. While it seems almost certain that another version of the program will soon be put into place, Paul’s short term victory is huge and any new versions will only serve as an easy issue for him to run on.

The other way in which Paul has managed to gain some ground is with the actual nomination process. Nevada is the fourth state, after New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, to hold their party contests. In recent months, the Silver State had been toying with the idea of scrapping a caucus-type system and going back to a primary system. Under the primary system, the state had usually just blown with the prevailing political winds rather than to pick a potential underdog. However, in 2008 and 2012 the state used a caucus system and they went in a very Libertarian direction, bucking the national trend and choosing a candidate who seemed all but destined to lose. Not only that, but the candidate they broke for was none other than Rand Paul’s own father, Ron. Daddy is certainly much more Libertarian on most issues than Rand, but being able to tie himself to his father certainly won’t hurt in states like Nevada. Nevada decided on June 2 to go ahead and keep the caucus system, which almost certainly will benefit Rand.

Paul is also polling very well in another early state: New Hampshire. The Granite State has always leaned more Libertarian than any other East Coast State, and even more so than many states nationwide. Current polls have Jeb Bush in the lead, even though he isn’t even in the race, with 14.7 percent, followed by Scott Walker, another non-candidate, who has 13 percent. Rand Paul is in third at 12.3 and has the advantage of actually being a candidate, making him the inside man at the moment. Of course, if one or both of the others jump in it changes that, and there’s no telling where those voters, over a quarter of the voting population, will break if Bush and Walker decide to forgo candidacy.

Rand Paul also polls better in the general election against the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton than any other Republican candidate. While Clinton is favored over almost every individual Republican in almost every poll, most are anywhere from five to 15 point advantages. Not with Paul though. He is within a point or two in every major poll, making it a dead heat.

So Rand Paul has become the champion of civil liberties champions from across the political spectrum and has advantages in two of the four early contests. He still has a lot of baggage, which we will explore in our Ten Reasons series on candidates at a later date. He's also still having trouble raising money. At the moment, however, he is sitting pretty and should use all of the political capital he has gained recently. -

 Filed under: Government


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