First up was an analysis/hypothesis of Cruz’s strategy to outflank Paul by positioning just inside Paul in terms of the conservative mainstream, especially in foreign policy (How Ted Cruz is trying to outmaneuver Rand Paul):
The area where I think this is playing out in the most obvious form is foreign policy (as I noted today, issues like Russia’s invasion of Crimea create unique challenges for Paul to overcome. Conversely, this creates opportunities for other candidates like Cruz.)
Just today at Frank Gaffney’s shadow CPAC gathering, we witnessed this. As Dave Weigel reports, Cruz specifically compared his foreign policy to Rand Paul’s, demonstrating that he agrees with Paul on some things, but — surprise, surprise! — is a notch closer to the more mainstream GOP position:
”The Republican Party — you can point to two points on the spectrum, where Republicans lie. On one side you have the views of John McCain. The other end of the spectrum, you have the views of Rand Paul. Now, with respect, my views are very much the views of Ronald Reagan, which I would suggest is a third point on the triangle.”
He gave some examples. “I agree with Rand Paul that we should not engage with military conflict in Syria,” Cruz said.
… But he agreed with John McCain on Iran.
Then, the other day (Ted Cruz has the buzz; Rand Paul has the infrastructure?), Matt made the case for the advantage Rand Paul has in the “ground game” he presumably is inheriting from his father. I use quotes because it’s not a localized ground game in the sense of election day get out the vote efforts, but in the sense of movement networking and support):
But while Cruz is accumulating powerful presumed supporters, and seeking to cast Paul as outside the mainstream on foreign policy, it’s hard to argue that Rand Paul won’t have a superior campaign organization.“Rand will be able to combine Liberty activists from previous campaigns, with a broad base of pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Right to Work conservative grassroots activists that would prove a formidable combination should he choose to run,” says one Paul advisor. (Paul is often thought of solely as a libertarian, but it’s important to note his strong pro-life stance — for example,his fight over an amendment defining “when life begins.”)
By tapping into the Ron Paul network (and its accumulated experience and institutional knowledge), as well as activists aligned with groups like the National Right to Work Committee (even here, Paul’s advantage is a double edged-sword), Paul will presumably have a logistical advantage over a candidate who was elected just two years ago — and has endured only won one real political campaign in his career.
While I think Rand Paul obviously has a leg up on utilizing his dad’s political network, I don’t think it’s a given that he can count on it, especially in a general election. First of all, he’s got to keep them appeased. That’s not going to be easy. Many of the most diehard of his dad’s followers are not in the mainstream of anything. They’re not anti-interventionist—they’re antiwar. They don’t question whether Bush-era national security measures might have overstepped, or whether they need to be re-examined—they don’t think government should be keeping any secrets whatsoever.
As I was writing this, I recalled several posts I wrote years ago here.
They were written at a time when I was engaging a lot with ardent Ron Paul supporters. I’ve re-published a couple of them just now to link back to. I think they’re a good reminder of the baggage Matt refers to in his Rand Paul piece.
From A very bad man:
I’ve been following an online acquaintance’s Facebook page for some time now—he’s a follower of Ron Paul—watching as he posts one anti-Israel link after another.
The question that keeps coming to my mind is why do people who claim to be non-interventionists not merely argue that we should be disengaged from all our alliances, including Israel? Just stay out of everybody else’s business? Including Israel’s?
But Paulites—and Ron Paul himself—don’t do that.
They don’t simply preach non-involvement; they actually involve themselves by taking sides. And the side they take, the side they become active, daily apologists for is the side of the terrorists. They do it with every interview, every article, every link. I have yet to encounter a Ron Paul supporter who, while continuing to preach non-U.S. involvement, defends Israel’s right to defend itself against an aggressor who has pledged to destroy it.
In The ‘Ron Paul lunatic fringe’, I quote a Ron Paul fan I was engaging with on Facebook, as well as my blog:
Steve, who has posted comments and arguments here, is a Paulite. Today he’s reveling in being part of the “Ron Paul Lunatic Fringe.” In one of his Facebook page’s many threads is one on Sarah Palin. During the conversation, Steve said this (emphasis mine):
Thanks for the link to Palin’s bio on the CFR web site. She definitely supports the CFR’s interventionist foreign policy. Disagreeing with that policy is the main reason why Ron Paul was labeled as a lunatic. Perhaps the American public will finally realize that non-interventionism is a good idea when we’re finally so bankrupt that we can’t afford it anymore.
Really? Disagreeing with the Council on Foreign Relations’ views on intervention is what got Ron Paul labeled as part of the lunatic fringe?
I don’t think so.
George Will sounds like Steve Gresh (and, yes, Ron Paul) in talking about war, the responsibility of Congress and the limits of Executive power. (He even uses the term “monarchical doctrine”!) And there’s his devastating takedown of Wilsonian internationalism. I can’t find the links now, but I recall (far) more than one or two columns from Mr. Will ridiculing Bush’s interventionist conceit.
We interventionists think Will is a crank, and wrong, but nobody has accused him of being part of a lunatic fringe.
William F. Buckley Jr. became a non-interventionist, for Pete’s sake!
All kinds of sensible, non-lunatic fringe people are non-interventionists. Not to mention liberals and other socialists.
What got Ron Paul labeled as part of the lunatic fringe is his belief in non-existent conspiracies like the North American Union and imputing non-existent power and influence onto think tank entities like the CFR. You know, connecting dots that aren’t there. Or the idea of viable Republican candidates dropping out in response to orders from CFR “headquarters.” Who would believe that?
Anyone obsessed with conspiracies and secret societies is going to be tagged with the Lunatic Fringe label. Period.
Ron Paul is no exception.
You might want to click on the original posts and check out the comments from the Ron Paul followers I was engaging with at the time. These are the kinds of people who make up the Ron Paul network Rand Paul is hoping to leverage.
Here’s what I think is going to happen with Rand Paul:
- He’s either going to keep his dad’s base or he’s going to lose it.
- If he keeps it, that means he will own their history of extremism.
- If he loses it, he loses their operational impact.
I really don’t think he can have it both ways.
As a Cruz apologist, I do think Rand Paul serves one very useful function:
If it’s down to a choice between him and Cruz, I fully expect Matt Lewis, along with Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry—and even John Podhoretz—to join the Cruz bandwagon.
Even if they have to hold their noses to do it.
Actual Facebook quote posted last night from a Paulite I quoted in those Ron Paul critiques:
As the following quote from the article suggests, I think Rand Paul realizes that most conservative voters are retarded. He is treating them with compassion. I hope that’s why he sounds less libertarian than his father.
“If Rand is in any way enabling conservatives to shift their views without changing their labels, then he may yet become as important for the popular acceptance of whichever version of libertarianism he holds as was his father. That rather large claim rests on the possibility that most of those who were won over by Ron Paul’s wonderful message of liberty (this writer included) were willing and able to undergo a large and conscious shift in political identity, but whereas we count in the millions, there are tens of millions who will come with us only slowly and only if we don’t challenge their political identity – and that ‘conservative’ label with which, for reasons of culture, upbringing or religion etc., they feel comfortable.”
To me this sounds like nervous spin.