Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rand Paul: What Is He Thinking?

'Brand Paul' is Gonna Sell A LOT of T-Shirts!
Rand Paul kicked off his presidential bid today despite low polling (around 9%) and serious questions about whether he can win. Is he doomed? Or does he have as much a chance as anyone to be the next POTUS?

Rand Paul's major case for a presidential contender is that his dad--while a serious dark horse when he ran--was kinda-sorta a contender. At least he got up on the stage. He tried to help Rick Perry out when Perry forgot which departments of the government he'd close. Rand's dad, Ron Paul, raised a lot of money--and had quite an organized army.

The problem is that that army? The Ron Paul army? They're crazy. Rand needs to keep every one of them and then win normal people. If there were a way to actually do something like that we wouldn't have seen Gingrich, Herman Cain, and . . . Michelle Bachmann (never mind Donald Trump) ahead of Mitt Romney. Ron Paul's voters were nothing if not ideological purists--and therefore Rand can't both keep them and appeal to the masses.

So he's doomed!

The math-heads at FiveThirtyEight find Rand both too conservative and too liberal--and way, way too extreme on foreign policy to stand a chance in a general election. They also say he's losing his father's base.

But Wait--He's The 'Goldilocks' Candidate!
On the other hand, Paul is nothing if not true to his school. He's perhaps the only candidate who has bravely courted black voters. He's conducted a real filibuster on the Senate floor. He is socially kinda liberal--but economically very conservative. That's actually a hell of a sweet spot.

He's also an iconoclast. The media likes him more than most Republicans. He has bashed both houses and lived to tell about it. He's smart. If you think Washington is broken--and the establishment is entrenched if not corrupt (and who doesn't), might he be the perfect candidate to fill that hole?

Sure, he's pretty much an isolationist--but he's not as extreme as his dad (he's now pro-Israel instead of cut-off-all-aid). Most Americans don't actually want another war do they? They want to do something extreme about ISIS, yeah--but actually send troops? That doesn't poll so well.

So it's not impossible that Rand could thread the needle and score with people on all sides of the aisle who are fed up with the status quo. Rand Paul is anything but the status quo!

So: What IS He Thinking?
The Omnivore carefully, cautiously, removes his tinfoil hat to voyage into the mind of Rand Paul. This is what he's thinking . . .

I've got a moment here--there's anger out there--and like one of those dark-Jedi guys I can channel it. I can ride it up--like a wave. Fear. Fear of drones. Fear of war. Fear of the Fed . . . I feel . . . all of it. Energy! That energy--that power--is mine--But Only So Long As I Am Ascendant.

I'm like a shark--gotta keep moving--gotta keep the energy flowing. That filibuster? Eyeballs--I felt like a Greek God up there! Thirteen hours--let's see you try that Jeb! Ha! The Brand--gotta build The Brand. Say enough of the right things not to look like a ridiculous old man. Claim I'm the Only Electable candidate. Ha! Can you believe it? They'll buy it. I'll float a blimp like dad did and make a zillion bucks. Pot heads will pay!

Paul is bright--he knows he doesn't statistically have a chance. In order for him to win there would have to be some break-away event--bigger than winning the two early states--to propel him to the front line. Even in 2012, his dad was never the front-runner when everyone else had a turn, and he's as painfully aware of that as anyone.

Rand Paul doesn't hold out for Black Swans. No: he knows that his brand as a speaker-of-truth, as a powerful political iconoclast, is only growing when he is in the spot-light. He needs to be seen--to be a newsmaker--and there is no better way to do that than a seemingly serious presidential run. If he keeps an eye and an ear out for the changing state of play--if he gets out at the right time like a TV show that retires at the top of its game rather than after the shark? Then he curates his image and his brand and strengthens it.

And who knows? He's young. Perhaps in 2028, his time come 'round at last, Rand Paul will slouch towards Washington, waiting to be elected.

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