Much of the GOP establishment obviously resents Rand Paul's arrival on the national stage. Take John McCain, who tangled frequently with Rand's father, Ron Paul, when they both ran in the GOP primaries in 2008. A front-page photo in the New York Times captured him glowering as he happened to share an elevator with Rand Paul in the Capitol building last week. McCain told reporters that if the younger Paul "wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids."
But at the annual Club for Growth meeting here in Palm Beach, it wasn't kids in the audience who greeted Paul as a hero, giving him a standing ovation both before and after his talk last Friday. The Club for Growth is a group of sober-minded business owners and investors who have proved their political clout by helping elect tea-party-oriented senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Rand Paul himself.
Some Club members are already in Paul's corner for 2016. "He has broadened his appeal to include three issues that 75 percent of the American people agree with," says George Yeager, an investment counselor from New York. "He wants a balanced-budget amendment, term limits, and a questioning of mindless nation-building overseas."
Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who is now president of the Heritage Foundation, told Club members that he "couldn't think of a more dramatic contrast between some senators having dinner with President Obama on the same night last week that Rand Paul and his allies were making their courageous stand." In his view, "the balance of power in the Senate GOP caucus is shifting." He noted that key members of the Senate leadership, such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jerry Moran of Kansas, came to the Senate floor in support of Paul's effort.
If Paul ran for president, he would no doubt be the underdog, given the Republican Party's post-Reagan penchant for nominating only establishment figures. But two consecutive presidential defeats have discredited the establishment in the eyes of many activists.
Mallory Factor, who runs a popular "Monday Meeting" of conservative activists in Charleston, S.C., had Paul speak to his group recently and reported that the response was very favorable. "He has a fresh appeal," Factor says. "And the mailing lists he inherits from his father's two campaigns are a huge fundraising and organizational head start" in South Carolina and other states that will vote early in the 2016 nominating process.
The reaction in other early-voting states is also favorable. "I don't think you can underestimate how big of a moment this was," conservative Iowa talk-radio host Steve Deace told Politico, speaking of Paul's filibuster. "If the Iowa caucuses were tomorrow, he would win in a landslide."
Even Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain's 2008 presidential effort, told Politico that Paul could be a formidable candidate. "I can't tell you how many hours and meetings are devoted to discussing the candidate's vision in a campaign," said Schmidt. "Well, you wouldn't have to do that with him. . . . He's got the right combination of principles, oratory skills, smarts, and showmanship."
Monday, March 11, 2013
John Fund: There is a lot of support for Rand Paul in 2016
Rand is certainly rising: