Rand Paul Joins the Fray

And so, Senator Rand Paul’s “journey to take America back” begins Kentucky-side on the banks of the Ohio River. “To rescue a great country now adrift,” he declared, “join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”


By Andrew Thomas l April 13, 2015

The day before kicking off his presidential run, U.S. Senator Rand Paul already was deploying a sophisticated campaign strategy.  On April 6, Paul’s Facebook page featured a stirring video outlining the themes that would fill his announcement speech the next day. The ad’s text promised, “On April 7, a different kind of Republican will take on Washington…”  Clips of seasoned political observers praising Paul, either personally or professionally, then filled the screen sequentially.  The range of personalities was striking:  Newt Gingrich, Chris Matthews, Michael Steele, Jon Stewart.

The video was true to Paul’s reputation as a thoughtful and independent conservative.  One of five children, born in 1963, Paul is a physician.  He and his wife settled in Kentucky after his ophthalmology internship at Duke University.  After founding Kentucky Taxpayers United in 1994 and campaigning for his father, Congressman Ron Paul, when he sought the Republican nomination for president in 2008, Rand Paul decided to take the political plunge as well.

In December 2009, on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Paul announced he would run for one of Kentucky’s seats in the U.S. Senate.  He first took on establishment Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson.  Grayson enjoyed the support of Kentucky’s other senator, Mitch McConnell, and former Vice President Dick Cheney.  He defeated Grayson by 24 points in the Republican primary.  Upon winning the general election by a wide margin in November 2010, Paul became the first U.S. Senator to serve concurrently with a father in the other federal legislative chamber.

His honeymoon was short-lived.  Right after his victory, the national media pounced on Paul for his past criticism of the Civil Rights Act.  He withdrew from public appearances for a while until the storm died down.  Soon thereafter, Paul regained his footing.  He drew national attention for his filibuster of just under 13 hours in opposition to the nomination of John Brennan to be the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Paul condemned unmanned drone strikes against suspected terrorists, saying the practice placed too much power in the hands of the president.

Paul built on these themes in announcing his presidential campaign.  On April 7, from the Galt House Hotel, in Louisville, Kentucky, Paul stood before supporters and declared to cheers, “We have come to take our country back.”  There in support of Paul were former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, a Hispanic state senator, and others whose presence and backing demonstrated Paul’s commitment to diversifying the Republican Party.

“Too often when Republicans have won we have squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine,” Paul said.  “That’s not who I am.”  Government is dysfunctional and “both parties and the entire political system are to blame.”  He noted candidly that “big government and debt doubled” during the George W. Bush administration.

To date, Paul and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are the only declared presidential candidates.  Both are competing for voters in the conservative wing of the Republican Party.  Their remarks about each other show this tension.  Cruz takes issue with Paul’s foreign policy, and is courting more openly religious conservatives (Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University, a Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell).  Paul says he is better at growing the Republican Party.  His emphasis on outreach to minorities is clear in his public events.

For all the anti-establishment verve that propelled Paul into politics and the Senate chamber, Paul nevertheless has become, of late, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Paul also backed establishment candidates over more conservative or libertarian candidates in recent political contests.

Cruz’s criticism of Paul’s views on foreign policy telegraphs how the GOP field is likely to deal with him.  Like his father, Paul is more reluctant to use force abroad than are many other Republican leaders.  Last year Paul did support air strikes against ISIS.  But he opposed arming Syrian rebels and is cautious regarding Iran.

Already, Paul’s foreign policy views are drawing serious fire. On the eve of Paul’s announcement, the Foundation for a Secure & Prosperous America released a $1 million TV ad blitz against Paul in key states with early caucuses or primaries.  Calling Paul “wrong and dangerous,” the commercial says Paul is not tough enough towards Iran and its nuclear program.  The ad ends with a nuclear bomb detonating.

The ad owed an obvious debt to Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” commercial against Barry Goldwater in 1964, a time heavily influenced by the Cold War and its nuclear-armed adversaries.  That commercial, now a classic in political campaign lore, likewise famously ended with a mushroom cloud.  Time will tell if this approach, used this time among Republican primary voters, backfires.

And so, Senator Rand Paul’s “journey to take America back” begins Kentucky-side on the banks of the Ohio River. “To rescue a great country now adrift,” he declared, “join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”


Andrew Thomas is a graduate of the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. Twice elected as Maricopa County Attorney, the district attorney for metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas served a county of four million residents and ran one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation. He established a national reputation for fighting violent crime, identity theft, drug abuse and illegal immigration. He is the author of four books, including Clarence Thomas: A Biography and the The People v. Harvard Law: How America’s Oldest Law School Turned Its Back on Free Speech. Mr. Thomas ran for governor of Arizona in 2014, receiving endorsements from many conservative leaders. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.