This is a must read piece. There is still much to do but things are moving for Rand Paul's 2016 Presidential campaign:
So far, said Paul chief of staff Doug Stafford, the senator's skill as a mass messenger has meant that "a lot of the things that have to be pushed and manufactured happen organically with Rand."
"One of the things that's useful to do is, try to keep [the political operation] as lean as possible," Stafford said. "There's going to be a lot more to it – his political travel, his political conversations."
More than half a dozen operatives in and around Paul's inner circle said that a key priority for Paul in the year ahead will be building out his campaign apparatus. Should he decide to run for president, Paul will need more than a band of true believers who can amp up a message: he'll need lawyers and regional political directors and state-specific spokespeople. He'll need to recruit national-level campaign veterans who are convinced that this Paul can actually land in the White House.
Paul's advisers talk about a 2016 presidential run almost as a fait accompli, and his schedule in Iowa this weekend reflects the near-certainty of a national campaign. Indeed, it looks like a full-blown, pre-caucus campaign swing: coffee with the Iowa Federation of Republican women, the state GOP Lincoln Dinner, breakfast with Johnson County Republicans on Saturday.
Sources said Paul is also slated to participate in an off-the-books "Pastors and Pews" event with local Christian leaders on Friday – one of the deliberately low-profile meetings organized nationwide by media-shy evangelical activist David Lane.
Paul also intends to intensify his outreach to the Republican donor community. He has already made overtures to some of the big guns of the GOP financial world, sources said, meeting with figures such as former George W. Bush finance vice chairman Jack Oliver, the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and New York financier Paul Singer.
But that process will speed up later this month when Paul travels to California for a speech at the Reagan Library. He'll hold multiple meet-and-greet events with potential West Coast donors, according to a top adviser – a move aimed in part at courting high-tech and venture capital moguls who may not regularly engage in politics.
Cathy Bailey, the prominent GOP fundraiser and former ambassador to Latvia – and a staunch Rand ally – said she is raring to go for 2016 and encouraged by the early reception Paul has gotten from donors.
Another Rand adviser emphasized that Paul will have to "expand and augment that political side going into the 2014 campaign" if he is going to leverage his star power in a more concerted way.
"Rand wants to be aggressively campaigning for Republicans in 2014," the adviser said. "Obviously, there will be need for some people doing communications stuff, obviously fundraising. Rand really tries to practice what he preaches, when it comes to being a fiscal conservative. So he will want to have a tight ship."
Stafford, a longtime "right to work" activist and veteran of Paul's 2010 Senate campaign, was blunt about what he views as the senator's extraordinary political potential, describing him as a potential candidate with appeal across the whole GOP coalition.
"I honestly think that could be the story of this race," he said. "Can someone take the traditional, low-tax Reagan conservatives [and] speak also to the social conservative evangelicals?"
To the Paul crew, the answer to that question is self-evident.