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Eye On Candidates
April 3, 2015

Iowa, New Hampshire ‘Insiders’ View of Rand Paul

Politico's weekly survey of political insiders on the 2016 presidential nomination contest, dubbed the Politico Caucus, turns its attention to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul today, with results that should be pleasing to his supporters.

Insiders view Paul as strong early state contender

On the eve of his expected presidential announcement, Republican insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire say Rand Paul is a top contender in those early states next year — and they agree that for better and for worse, his father, Ron Paul, looms large over his candidacy.

According to this week’s survey of the POLITICO Caucus, a bipartisan group of political operatives, activists and key players from Iowa and New Hampshire, about two-thirds of all respondents said Paul can win their state in the caucuses or primary. But to do so, many said, the Kentucky senator has to build on the base cultivated by his father, the libertarian icon and former presidential candidate.

While former Rep. Ron Paul’s network of supporters is proving to be an asset, the elder Paul’s isolationist views — which many associate with Rand Paul — are also contributing to what is by far the senator’s biggest liability: his positions on foreign policy and national security. A majority of respondents, when asked an open-ended question about Paul’s greatest weakness, pointed to one or the other…

The piece offers three other key takeaways:

Paul has the potential to expand the electorate

Over the past few years, the Kentucky senator has made a major effort to reach out to young people, minorities and other groups that typically don’t vote for Republicans. That’s why his first event in Iowa as an announced candidate will be at the University of Iowa. Asked to describe his greatest strength, one frequent response was Paul’s appeal to young people. Many respondents also said Paul’s efforts to broaden the base, especially his attempts to appeal to young voters, will be at least somewhat successful in their states. His father was also relatively successful with students...

He missed his foreign policy moment

In 2013, when polls consistently showed that Americans wanted less intervention abroad and were tired of war, Paul’s views looked prescient. But by the midterm elections of 2014, with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and foreign policy and national security emerging as dominant issues, Paul’s more inward-looking approach put him out of step with many of his Republican colleagues. Those views made numerous insiders uneasy...

Some Iowa Republicans are still angry at his father’s supporters

Several Iowa Republicans said there are still hard feelings over the period when Ron Paul supporters took over the state party after the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

“Ron Paul’s supporters were an embarrassment under the national spotlight of the 2012 convention,” said one Iowa Republican who is backing Bush. “They were belligerent, cantankerous thugs at every event they went to, and are a net liability.”

Read the full story here.