Rand Paul Demise: Botched Campaign or Apathy on Freedom?
By James Bovard
Rand Paul announced that he is suspending his presidential campaign. How much of the demise of the Rand Paul’s effort was due to poor campaign tactics vs. voters not giving a damn about freedom?
In Iowa, Rand’s campaign targeted student voters. But asDavid Weigel of the Washington Post noted, that tactic fizzled badly. Drew Ivers, Ron Paul’s 2012 Iowa chief, told the Post: “His decision to move to the middle… sent us a real signal about the application of his ideology. He muddled on his message, tried to get the left, and I told him it would backfire. … I just saw someone trying to do too much and be too many things to too many people.” A Buzzfeed analysis quoted “source close to the campaign” on Steve Grubbs, the campaign’s chief Iowa strategist: “It seemed like he was more concerned with t-shirts than getting out the vote or the caucuses.” The Atlantic’s Molly Ball noted that she gave up writing a profile of Rand Paul’s campaign early on “in part because of the frustration of dealing with Paul’s disastrous communications staff.”
I was surprised how Rand framed the drug war – as if his primary concern was disproportionate arrests and jailings of minorities. Feds don’t have a right to bust any marijuana smoker. That could have been a much more compelling message to the 10+ million Americans who have been unjustifiably arrested for narcotics violations. Also, with the heroin overdose epidemic in NH, simple words of truth could have resonated strongly there.
In football terms, Rand started his prez campaign on the 50-yard line and ended by punting from his own end zone. He was a frontrunner in 2014 before formally entering the race.
According to the Washington Post’s Chris Cizzilla, “Rand Paul probably lost the 2016 presidential race on Aug. 19, 2014. That was the day James Foley was beheaded.” But Ron Paul’s 2008 prez campaign thrived in a far more difficult foreign policy atmosphere than Rand Paul faced in 2016. Warmongers redefined American politics after the rise of ISIS – in part because of the lack of pushback from folks like Rand Paul.
On the other hand, it is unclear how many Americans still give a damn about freedom. If folks are more enthused about carpet bombing foreigners than leashing Leviathan, any pro-freedom candidate will have a hard row to hoe. There is plenty of evidence of appalling apathy on freedom in this nation.
Rand Paul had quite a few excellent riffs in the debates. Especially on foreign policy, his comments were far sounder & saner than many of his Republican competitors. But his signing of the anti-Iran letter from Sen. Cotton was the final strike against him for many potential supporters.
Unfortunately, we still do not know how much support a well-run pro-freedom campaign could draw.
Rand Paul has done heroic work in the Senate on drone killings, NSA spying, the Federal Reserve, and other issues. I hope he is reelected and continues to do champion liberty in the Senate. His best days may be ahead of him.
UPDATE: Rand was doing worse in NH polls than I assumed – only 2.8%, according to a Daily Beast piece. Lordie, NH should have been his natural turf – esp. with the Free State Project activists there. I am mystified how he could poll so badly there but I can better understand why he threw in the towel before what might have been a debacle result.