Rand Paul’s Appeal to a Broad Array of Groups — Including Blacks and Millennials — Could be his Achilles’ Heel

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) formally announces his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. REUTERS/AARON P. BERNSTEIN
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) formally announces his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015.
REUTERS/AARON P. BERNSTEIN

If the public has learned anything about Republican Rand Paul since he announced his presidential candidacy on Tuesday, it’s that you can’t fit him into an ideological box. Barnstorming through the early primary states, he’s bashing both Republicans and Democrats.

This is the way the renegade tea party and libertarian senator from Kentucky wants it. But as his inaugural week of electioneering shows, the rigors of the campaign trail – including media scrutiny and attacks from rivals – will test his none-of-the-above strategy as a winning one.

“His overall message of liberty and adherence to the Constitution and small government appeals to a lot of people, but presidential candidates get asked lots of detailed questions about issues,” says Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“That’s probably going to be his downfall, because he’ll get so bollixed up with stands that seem to be incongruent that he won’t gain traction,” Mr. Cross explains. Still, “I do not write him off” as a top-tier contender for the GOP nomination, he says.

By reaching out to nontraditional GOP voters such as Millennials and African-Americans, the tousle-haired firebrand is trying to extend his support beyond the base of his libertarian father. Three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul had a fiercely loyal but narrow following.

As the younger Paul draws outside the lines on policy, he is also trying to redefine his party.

His announcement on Tuesday had something for everyone: for tea partyers, a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution; for African-Americans, sentencing reform and economic growth zones in troubled cities; for libertarians and young people, a brandishing of his smart phone along with a denunciation of domestic phone surveillance.

Senator Paul also pointedly left out the social hot-button issues of abortion and gay marriage that many Millennials think are either made too much of in campaigns (abortion) or are nonissues (gay marriage).

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SOURCE: Francine Kiefer
Christian Science Monitor

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