By Nick Davis
With each passing presidential election, it seems the cycle starts a little bit earlier every year. The upcoming cycle is no different despite being over three and half years away. Let’s call March of 2013 the unofficial start to the 2016 campaign season. Hillary Clinton came out on video with the Human Rights Campaign in support of gay marriage. And Rand Paul has made it no secret that he is exploring his options as they pertain to 2016. He has taken center stage this month, most notably with his 13-hour filibuster of CIA Director nomination, John Brennan.
The junior senator from Kentucky will be the GOP’s own gut check to see if they’re ready to take on the changes proposed by the Growth and Opportunity Project. It appears Mr. Paul is ready to take on that challenge. He recently outlined his immigration stance at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and called for the decriminalization of marijuana, among other things, at the annual CPAC conference. Additionally, his constitutional and federalist bent on gay marriage could appease both liberals and conservatives, allowing each state government to determine what is best for them (at least until the Supreme Court returns its verdict sometime in June).
So what are Paul’s realistic chances of getting elected in 2016? Oddsmakers have put Mr. Paul at anywhere from 12-1 to 28-1 odds that this stage in the process, not exactly a sure bet. Nate Silver, the election prophet over at the New York Times, recently outlined Paul’s appeal within his own party and whom he could attract from independents and Democrats. In that blog, Silver describes the Olympic Rings of the Republican Party. Its clear that Paul would fall into the libertarian category, but I’ll make the claim that he’ll have no problem attracting strong support from other factions of the party.
He has made it clear that he’s ready to deal on immigration, something that will attract moderates and reformers of the GOP. He’ll attract the Tea Party conservatives through his staunch fiscal restraint and religious conservatives should look fondly on his sponsorship of the Right to Life Act being proposed in the Senate now. His libertarian core base loves his dedication to the Constitution and his isolationist foreign policy.
So, that leaves the establishment base of the party, those who toe the party line and seem to be the most electable according to the pundits. It is these very people who are the reason why the Growth and Opportunity Project report was commissioned in the first place. Rand Paul is the very definition of the type of message and branding that this report described. His shift into immigration has the potential to win over some of the Latino vote while his idealistic and impassioned stance on the use of drones and libertarian approach to marijuana and gay marriage have strong potential to draw the youth vote.
There is still strong support for fiscal conservatism today. Republicans would do well to reconsider their positions on foreign policy and social issues. While Rand Paul will have only held political office for six years when the election rolls around, Barack Obama has proven that years of experience aren’t critical to being elected. In fact, it could be an asset. Americans, especially Republicans, are looking for a fresh face and ideas, and Rand Paul could be the one to deliver them.