Rand Paul and the principle principle

March 7, 2013

Rand Paul proved on Wednesday that a filibuster can be very good politics. In speaking for over 12 hours in opposition to the Obama Administration's drone policy, Paul did more to boost his prospects as a 2016 presidential candidate than anything he has done since coming to the Senate from Kentucky in 2010.


Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul filibusters the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. AP photo

What Paul proved during his "filiblizzard" -- it hurts so good to write that -- is that he is a politician with a) a core set of beliefs  and b) a willingness to stand up for them.

That's a rare thing in modern American politics where the tendency is to find where the public -- or the primary electorate -- is on a given issue and then find a way to get there.

"People of all backgrounds yearn for leaders who believe in what they say and will stand strong for their convictions," said Jesse Benton, who managed Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign and is now serving as campaign manager for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's 2014 re-election race. "Senator Paul is one of those leaders, and the list of others is short."

While the issue Paul chose -- drones and, specifically, the possibility of strikes against American citizens in the U.S. -- isn't a high-profile one, it became clear as the Kentucky Republican talked (and talked) that he was creating a major moment for a party that hasn't had very many of those since Nov. 6, 2012.

"It was one of the first examples in a long time of messaging that made the base feel like we had control of the day," said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican strategist. "Rand Paul's stock price rose sharply today, and being the guy who set Obama on his heels -- even for a day -- will pay dividends for Paul in the short term, at least."

Need evidence that Paul's filibuster was paying political dividends?  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- a frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nod -- joined Paul on the Senate floor in both a symbolic show of support, and an acknowledgment of the power of the moment his colleague had created.

By the time the 2016 Republican presidential race rolls around, the Paul filibuster will be a distant memory -- even to the grassroots of the party. But, the motivation behind the filibuster -- a combination of genuine conviction and a sense for the dramatic -- will still burn strongly in Paul.

It's why we continue to believe no one should underestimate Paul's ability to have a major impact on the 2016 race. While his beliefs -- particularly on foreign policy -- are outside the mainstream of current Republican thought, Paul will get points among the base for actually believing what he says.

"The public is looking for leaders with principles and conviction, even if they differ from some of their own views," said Jon Downs, who did the television ads for Ron Paul's 2012 campaign. "Nobody has to question whether Rand Paul is authentic, or what his core beliefs are."

Call it the principle principle.

Obama dines with Senate Republicans: Obama extended an olive branch to the GOP Tuesday night, dining with a dozen Senate Republicans. And he even picked up the tab.

Obama is ramping up his outreach to the GOP and is set to meet with all four caucuses on Capitol Hill next week. We'll find out in he coming weeks and months whether anything comes of the renewed outreach.

Markey leads in Massachusetts: Rep. Ed Markey (D) leads his Senate primary opponent, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D), by nearly 30 points, according to a new UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll. The longtime congressman leads Lynch 50 percent to 21 percent according to the survey. But nearly a quarter (23 percent) of potential Democratic primary voters are undecided.

In special general election match-ups, Markey and Lynch lead all three Republican candidates by double digits. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan runs strongest against the two Democrats, but still trails by about 17 points against each one.

Fixbits:

The NRSC is raising money off Paul's filibuster.

McConnell said he opposes Brennan's nomination and urged against cloture.

Senate Republicans blocked an Obama appellate court nomination.

Sequestration won't mean a pay cut for Congress.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to reintroduce his proposal to require background checks on gun purchases as efforts for a bipartisan agreement on the issue have stalled.

Arkansas adopted the country's strictest abortion law.

Mitt Romney is joining his son's investment firm.

Must-reads:

"House votes to avert shutdown as Obama looks for big deal" -- Rosalind S. Helderman and Philip Rucker, Washington Post

"Colorado still on the fence about gun control" --  T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

"Senate Democrats Seek Wider Scope, May Add Appropriations Bills" -- Kerry Young, Roll Call

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Sean Sullivan | March 6, 2013