4/8/15, "MSNBC’s Favorite Republican Can’t Win," Commentary, Jonathan S. Tobin
"Yesterday was Rand Paul’s big day as the Kentucky senator
announcement his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Like any baseball team on opening day, in theory his chances are as good
as any other candidate, and given the expected crowded field competing
for the nod, that’s still true. But though his Louisville announcement
bash went smoothly, what followed hasn’t gone quite as well. Some of
that is due to Paul’s personality turning media appearances sour. But
just as important is the way the basic contradiction in his campaign
strategy is undermining his chances almost from the start. Though Paul
has money, an ardent cadre of supporters, and a rationale for his quest,
it’s hard to imagine a path to victory for him. While his rival Ted
Cruz’s launch seems to have validated the notion that he is being
underestimated by pundits, Paul’s start may be proof that those who see
him as a lock to be a first-tier primary candidate next winter and
spring are the ones who are making a mistake.
about these two launches is the way both candidates have gone against
the stereotype about their personalities and styles. Cruz is viewed as a
bomb-throwing, extremist agitator, yet he came off in the usual round
of interviews on the news and broadcast channels as being thoughtful and
soft-spoken even as he remained unyielding about his conservative
views. By contrast Paul, whose reputation is of being a low-key
intellectual, showed a brittle nature as he responded to questions about
flip-flopping with anger and condescension toward media figures.
Granted, nobody on the right will blame Paul for tearing into Today’s
Savannah Guthrie, but it struck a contrast to the supposedly off-balance
Cruz’s patience when subjected to similar sorts of questions.
GOP voters tend to sympathize with their leaders when they are under
attack from the media, voters tend not to like presidential candidates
who can’t keep their cool. For Paul to unravel so quickly with the glow
of his announcement still on him doesn’t bode well for how he will hold
up in the long haul through primary season.
But the problem with the flip-flopping charge goes deeper than Paul’s thin skin.
reason he’s upset about being questioned about the way he has gradually
drifted a bit to the center on foreign policy and security issues is
that he knows that his formerly rigid libertarian views are out of step
with his party and the general public. Paul’s instinctive antagonism
toward security measures and a robust U.S. defense seemed to reflect the
post-Iraq/Afghanistan wars mood of the country in early 2013 when he
gained attention with a well executed Senate filibuster about the use of
drone attacks. But with ISIS on the march and the key issue of the day
being President Obama’s appeasement of Iran, his attempt to square the
circle on these points falls flat.
The contradictions were
evident even in his announcement speech, as at one point he pledged to
“do whatever it takes” to defeat terrorism but then returned to more
familiar rhetoric a few moments later as he lambasted some of the
security measures that give law enforcement the ability to stop the
Just as important, the looming problem for Paul is
that his basic foreign-policy approach still has its roots in the
extremism of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul. It is true that, as the
candidate says, he shouldn’t be held accountable for his father’s views
(a good thing since it is hard to imagine the elder Paul staying silent
during the campaign) and that he disagrees with him on some issues. But
try as he might to demonstrate distance from the White House on all
issues, it’s still obvious that he is running for a Republican
nomination while espousing views that are actually largely to the left
of those of President Obama on foreign policy.
That was always
true of Ron Paul, but a vignette on MSNBC yesterday demonstrated just
how comfortable the denizens of that left-wing cul de sac are with the
Kentucky senator’s approach to foreign policy. Paul’s announcement and
the attacks that are being launched against him by conservative
opponents of his foreign-policy views prompted the channel’s Chris
Matthews to launch into an impressive rant about how the candidate is
more reflective of the views of most of the country than his GOP
opponents. But instead of leaving it at that, Matthews insisted that the
attempt by “neocons and piggish money” that want to fight more wars for
Israel to oppose Paul speaks well for the candidate. Matthews stopped
just short of overt anti-Semitism, though his line about “cloth coat
Republicans” (a nod to Richard Nixon’s “checkers speech”?) that send
their kids to war while the neocons don’t seemed an obvious and
inaccurate shot at supporters of Israel.
Paul isn’t responsible
for what crackpots on the ultra-left MSNBC say about him, but what is
significant is that a candidate that can draw sympathy from that sector
is poorly placed to win mainstream support among Republicans.
Considering that some of his father’s hard-core backers are becoming
disillusioned with Rand’s apostasies about foreign aid and defense
spending, there just aren’t enough libertarians to help Paul win. Tea
Partiers have other choices with Cruz and Scott Walker. Nor is he well
placed to compete for conservative Christian voters.
That adds up
to a steep hill, for him to climb. Though no one with this much name
recognition and the ability to raise money can be written off on day one
of his candidacy, the limitations to his appeal are actually greater
than those of the supposedly more extreme Cruz. MSNBC’s favorite
Republican may not be as much of a lock to be a first-tier primary
candidate as some pundits think." via Free Rep.