Libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), son of retiring 12-term Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), dropped a hint Friday that he was thinking of running for president, declaring that only a "libertarian-Republican" can heal the fractured GOP and lead it forward to the presidency in 2016.
"We are going to have to have somebody a little bit different than we've had in the past … someone who can appeal to people in New England and on the West Coast. Someone who has a little more of a libertarian-Republican approach, I think, would have a better chance," Rand said on The Andrea Tantaros Show with Jason Mattera this week.
The Kentucky senator said that in order to defeat the Democratic Party, the GOP establishment is going to need to nominate someone like him to appeal to independents and moderates. He may have a point: the Republican party has become increasingly fractured between a Southern conservative base solidly entrenched on social issues and a Northeastern and West Coast contingent less focused on cultural concerns. Young voters split 60% to 36% for Obama in the November elections. He was recently appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which could bolster his credentials for any future presidential bid.
That appointment came as a surprise to some, given both Paul's opposition to foreign aid and intervention. "We will be slightly different on some policy," Rand said. The senator has struck a more traditionally Republican tone on most issues than his father, though he has clashed with prominent GOP leaders before. In December, Rand lashed out at former vice presidential nominee Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for "purging" fiscal conservatives from top posts.
Rand's chances will likely depend on how voters respond to his current proposals (such as Rand's support of legislation barring revenue from being used to pay for anything but the public debt, Social Security, and military salaries) and how intensely the media probes his most controversial statements. These have included saying government shouldn't require desegregation of private businesses, that the U.S. is planning an E.U.-style merger with Mexico and Canada, and that Medicare should come with a $2,000 deductible. Most recently, he accused President Obama of wanting to say "I stuck it to the rich people" during fiscal cliff negotiations. Evidently the voters of Kentucky feel comfortable with these positions, but it remains to be seen how they would be interpreted on the national stage – especially coming from a candidate so unlikely to remit a prior statement.
Ron Paul's quest for the presidency never ended in success, in effect acting more as public awareness campaigns for libertarianism than a real political spoiler. That trend seems likely to continue. More likely than a Rand presidency is a continuation of his father's legacy on executive candidacies: never elected, never popular on the national stage, but eagerly supported by a core constituency of loud and fervent libertarian activists.
Still, given his family history, Paul seems unlikely to crack under pressure or the unlikelihood of election. "I haven't said no, and I haven't also said yes," he commented on the program.