Larry Sabato: Rand Paul Faces Potentially Hostile GOP Establishment

Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 06:54 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Editor's Note: Every day this week "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV takes you on “The Road to the White House,” a look at some of the top presidential contenders for 2016.

Rand Paul will likely run for president in 2016 — but the soft-spoken Kentucky senator's libertarian positions could roil the GOP mainstream, according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

Sabato, participating in Newsmax TV's "Road to the White House" series on "The Steve Malzberg Show," said Paul is a "serious" candidate among a large pack of potential Republican contenders.

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"You can’t predict [Dr. Ben] Carson or [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee for sure, but Rand Paul is giving every sign of wanting to run,'' Sabato said.

"His problem is he can't run for re-election under current law to a Senate seat in Kentucky [and run for president as well], but some of his allies may try to change that before 2016.''

If Paul does throw his hat in the ring, Sabato said, he would have an unusual coalition in that some of his positions are strictly outside the Republican mainstream.

"He has — I'm not going to call it an isolationist foreign policy — but he is certainly less eager than most Republicans, and indeed the Republican platform, to see American military strength projected abroad.

"Now, that attracts a lot of libertarian Republicans to Paul. He's also given some other libertarian hints about positions that he may have that other Republican candidates don't, but it'll be a very interesting campaign if he decides to do it.''

But one of Paul's key strengths that Republicans are in desperate need of harvesting is his outreach to minorities.

"He's been reaching out to minorities which there ought not to be any controversy about in the Republican Party,'' he said.

"If that party is going to win the presidency, it's going to have to do much better with Hispanics and Asians in particular.''

Still, Sabato is not sure that Paul could build a large enough coalition to win the nomination once the field is narrowed down to a few names.

"But stranger things have happened. Whoever thought Jimmy Carter would be nominated?'' he said.

Paul must also work to separate himself from the ideology of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who was a two-time GOP presidential candidate and Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988.

"Ron Paul helps his son Rand Paul in fundraising and in [energizing] the volunteers that would be needed to run a presidential campaign through the caucuses and primaries,'' Sabato said.

"The down side is that Rand Paul has got to be able to create a very separate identity from his father for not just the Republican Party itself, but for the general electorate.''

One of Paul's great strengths is his even-tempered demeanor and ease of dealing with tough questions, Sabato said.

"He knows how to avoid rising to the bait, whether it's opponents, bait or the media's bait … you want someone like that as your nominee,'' he said.

"But at the same time you have to consider a nominee as a package, a package of views, of personality, of background, of character. And this is going to be a very competitive race for the Republican nomination. We're going to have a big field.''

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