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Rand Paul … What If?




Remember Rand Paul?  If not, you’re forgiven.

His 2016 presidential campaign crashed and burned on the runway – the victim of catastrophically bad political judgment and a gross misreading of the American electorate.

As a result, perhaps the most promising presidential candidate in a generation went from early frontrunner to early flameout – squandering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to  fundamentally reshape the American political landscape for the better.

Last September, we published a column entitled “The Rand Paul Tragedy.”  In that piece, we explored Paul’s three possible pathways to the presidency …

1) An independent insurgent candidacy …

In this scenario, Paul would have left the “Republican” party and launched an aggressive, uncompromising campaign for president as an independent – invoking the fiscally conservative, socially libertarian ideology of his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

2) An insurgent “Republican” candidacy …

In this scenario, Paul would have advanced the same uncompromising ideological matrix … only within the framework of a GOP primary campaign.

3) A conventional “Republican” candidacy …

In this scenario (which is the option he chose), Paul sought the GOP nomination as a conventional “Republican” candidate – embracing establishment politicians and morphing his views in an effort to become more “electable.”

Clearly Paul chose path No. 3. – the establishment “Republican” route.  In fact, his ideological spectrum got so warped he actually wound up becoming a GOP loyalty czar when eventual “Republican” nominee Donald Trump successfully exploited the populist angst Paul left on the table.

Paul abandoned his non-interventionist foreign policy.  He endorsed sellout “Republican” leaders in Washington, D.C.  And he wound up becoming one of the most aggressive critics of Trump – offering a shrill voice of opposition to a movement he should have been leading.

By the time he dropped out of the presidential race in February, Paul was polling at 2.4 percent nationally among “Republicans” – a shadow of his high-water mark of 17 percent (reached way back in November 2013).  He was also polling at just 2.8 percent in New Hampshire – a state where his support once topped twenty percent.

What a waste …

We’ve long maintained that had Paul embraced his father’s movement – especially via an independent candidacy – that Trump’s populist surge might have never even happened.

He didn’t do that, though … and as a result, 2016 has become a dramatically different race.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson – who drew less than one percent of the vote when her ran in 2012 – is currently polling at around nine percent nationally.  Those are all voters who could have gone to Paul.

With economic woes dominating the landscape, Paul’s tax plan – arguably the best of the GOP proposals – could have been a major draw for fiscal conservatives.

Same with his consistently conservative voting record in the U.S. Congress …

Also, Paul’s vote against advancing U.S. president Barack Obama‘s crony capitalist Pacific rim trade deal could have helped him siphon off some of the “nativist,” “angry white” vote Trump has energized.

Seriously: Paul was always the most electable “Republican” in head-to-head polls against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  Imagine if he had set about to grow that tent as opposed to trying to make himself acceptable to a dying party?

What if he had said “damn the torpedoes” instead of “thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Alas, it was not to be …

Americans up and down the political spectrum are clamoring for a real choice this election cycle.  For many voters, Trump has provided that choice – and lent a voice to their righteous anger and justified frustration with Washington D.C.’s ongoing bipartisan betrayal of their best interests.  Of course in the process he’s also lent voice to some craziness, as well.

Would things have gone differently had Rand Paul chosen the road less traveled?

Sadly, we’ll never know …