Today, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
Of all the potential candidates in the 2016 field, Paul has been particularly tricky to figure out not only where he stands, but if he has a legitimate shot at victory.
It is difficult to embrace Paul as a potential front-runner for multiple reasons.
He comes from a similar brand as his father Ron Paul – a liberty-loving, strict constitutionalist, CPAC Champion who in 12 congressional terms passed 1 of approximately 500 proposed bills, and in 3 presidential runs never won a full state primary or caucus.
In an increasingly global community, foreign policy and his non-interventionist leanings are not his strong suit.
Recently the GOP has opted to nominate establishment or next-in-line candidates (McCain in 2008, Romney in 2012.) Paul will presumably be running an anti-establishment platform. He also does not play party politics being one of only two Republican senators to vote against the GOP budget (the other being Ted Cruz.)
However, despite his lack of conventionality, I urge pundits, analysts and voters to not sleep just yet on Rand Paul.
He is a long-shot for sure, but he seems to have a better chance than others of catching fire and evolving into a legitimate contender.
He has an ability to appeal to the people with his passion about Auditing the Fed and removing the NSA from collecting phone records without individualized warrants.
He has proven to have much more political savvy and connectedness than his father. He would likely have the endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a much better chance of courting big donors.
However the most promising quality about Rand Paul 2016 is his potential to both unite and expand the party. Not only does Paul have the potential to bridge the establishment-tea party divide within the GOP. Paul is seemingly the only candidate reaching out to dynamics that the GOP is historically weak – urban and African American populations. He has said that it is important for communities to understand that “Republicans do care and have plans to try to help poverty and long-term unemployment.”
Over the past few years Paul has met with NAACP leaders. He has traveled to urban areas around the country and to Ferguson as well.
This quality about Paul, the willingness to be the unifier of the Party and reach out to expand the vote could be his redeeming quality. Somehow, someway Rand Paul could be competitive in a general election, maybe even more so than in a primary.
The GOP race will be a crowded field of contenders. Few have a legitimate shot at the nomination. Don’t sleep on Rand Paul just yet.
(Photo credit: MRCTV)