Report: GOP Gives Rand Paul Head Start in Early 2016 Primaries

Image: Report: GOP Gives Rand Paul Head Start in Early 2016 Primaries

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 09:45 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Republican National Committee has opened a pathway to the presidential nomination for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with a primary schedule that favors the potential libertarian-leaning tea party candidate.

The Daily Beast says that the committee’s format calling for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada to hold their primaries first gives Paul a "huge advantage" over rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, laid the groundwork for his son while campaigning over the years as a Libertarian to become president, and "those same ties" give Paul a vital head start in three of the early primary states.

"If the senator were to win or even put together a decent showing there, Republicans say he may have momentum that is impossible to slow," said the Beast’s David Freelander. "No Republican has won Iowa and New Hampshire and failed to win the nomination.

"Of course, no one can discuss the 2016 presidential race without massive caveats about handicapping a race at least six months before a single candidate has declared. But the champagne-popping in the Paulite corridors has not gone unnoticed."

Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican consultant and a veteran of George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, concurred, saying, "If Rand were to win two of those first three or three of those first four, he would be a train gathering a lot of steam."

Paul is considered highly unlikely to have a shot at winning South Carolina, due to the strength of evangelical Christians. However, in Iowa, Paul can call on his superior organization, a legacy left over from this dad’s two attempts at the GOP nomination there, to boost his election chances.

In a calculated move with his future in mind, Paul’s political action committee, RANDPAC, hired the state’s Republican Party chairman to serve as a political adviser, while his army of aides has slowly assumed control of the organization, according to the Beast.

"He already has his team in place in Iowa," said Chris LaCivita, a Republican strategist who worked on Paul’s 2010 Senate bid. "I don’t know too many presidential candidates who can say that in May of 2014."

In free-spirited New Hampshire, Paul’s libertarian views are more in line with GOP voters than other possible candidates, and he’s been leading early polls in the state.

"There is no question that Sen. Paul starts out with some early advantages," said Jim Merrill, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. "There is a natural base of support from his father’s two campaigns. Every other candidate has to build one."

Merrill added, "There is a strong libertarian streak here. I think [Paul’s] messaging on privacy and the NSA really resonates."

In Nevada, a GOP strategist told the Beast that Paul has such a "superior organization" that "it would be surprising to even see the other candidates campaign much."

Republican leaders from Florida, Texas, and Michigan, and other states had put up proposals to move themselves up in the primary calendar, but in the end the RNC persuaded them to adhere to its timeline.

However, the Beast warned that if Rand looks like he’s becoming an unstoppable force early in the race, the Republicans in those states may vote to rein him in.

Also, Freelander writes that mega-donors may start throwing money at his rivals to prevent Rand, with his right-wing tea party opinions, from stealing the GOP nomination from more moderate potential candidates like Bush, Perry, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"The money people don’t like unpredictability," added Mackowiak. "They want a mainstream, pro-business candidate that they can get behind and be confident can be the nominee and beat Hillary Clinton. It’s a question if they will accept him as a nominee."

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