Ryan Lizza -- a Fix friend and not only because we always get mistaken for one another -- has a massive profile of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in this week's New Yorker. It's a long and good read detailing Paul's ambitions to be president and the things -- namely his father, Ron -- that might keep him from that goal. I plucked out five people talking about Rand in the piece that I found particularly telling -- and explained why.
1. “Ron was always content to tell the truth as best he understood it, and he saw that as the point of his politics. Rand is the guy who is committed to winning.” -- Paul family strategist Jesse Benton
This gets to the core of the difference between Rand and Ron Paul. It's not -- as Lizza correctly notes in his piece -- fundamentally about their policy views on which there is considerable overlap. "They don’t really have differences," Carol Paul, wife of Ron and mother of Rand, told Ryan. "They might have fractional differences about how to do things, but the press always want to make it into some kind of story that isn’t there.” The real difference between the two men is stylistic and focus-oriented. Many Republican strategists admit that if Ron Paul had simply refused to go down the rabbit hole of his foreign policy views (over and over again) during nationally televised debates, he might well have won a primary or caucus in 2012. Rand Paul, by contrast, understands the need to pivot off of topics where his views are not entirely aligned with the people he is trying to woo.
2. “He’s not naturally gregarious. He’s not a natural politician.” -- Longtime Louisville Courier Journal reporter and columnist Al Cross
Cross is right. Paul doesn't fit the charismatic pol stereotype like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio do. If he's like anyone in the potential field, it's Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a wonky guy with a sort of off-beat appeal. To Paul's credit, he understands that he is not the back-slapping, hail-fellow-well-met candidate in the race and uses his occasionally awkward personality as a public-facing sign of just how different he is from the longtime politicians he hopes to beat. (A more concerning character trait that Lizza picks up on is that Paul is "prickly.")
3. “Kelley [Paul] is going to say what’s on her mind. She eggs him on when he gets attacked.” -- A former Paul aide
Rand Paul's wife, Kelley, is someone the national media -- and the average voter in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- knows very little about. That, of course, will change as part of the process of running for president in this media age is that your significant other also must step into the spotlight. The comment about Kelley from the former Paul aide is part of a broader section in the Lizza piece about Rand's political antennae not always being perfectly tuned. But, it's worth noting that Kelley Paul, according to the Lizza piece, advised her husband against appearing on Rachel Maddow's show in May 2010-- good advice given what a mess he made of that interview.
4. “[Mitch McConnell] realized that he was not his father’s son in all respects, and that he was interested in winning and achieving things rather than just making philosophical points. McConnell quickly realized that this is somebody with whom political business can be done.” -- John David Dyke, Kentucky GOP commentator
The relationship between Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell -- brokered following the former's thrashing of the latter's hand-picked candidate in a 2010 Republican Senate primary -- may be the single most telling thing about the rise -- and change -- of Kentucky's junior senator. Dyke's praise of Paul as "somebody with whom political business can be done" is something that would have never been said of Ron Paul or even Rand Paul as recently as 2010 when he ran, at least in part, to teach the establishment a lesson for their long opposition to his father. But Rand doesn't want to be a hopeless cause. He wants to be a winning candidate. The relationship with McConnell speaks to that fact.
5. “I’ve seen him grow and I’ve seen him mature and I’ve seen him become more centrist. I know that if he were President or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.” -- Arizona Sen. John McCain
Rand Paul has spent much of his first four years in the Senate -- and especially the last two as it became clearer and clearer he was running for president -- trying to reduce some of the heat directed toward him (and his father) by the Republican establishment. He knows people like McCain are never going to endorse him for president. (My guess on a McCain endorsement? Rubio.) But, Rand also believes that having people like McCain -- and McConnell -- actively working either behind the scenes or in front of them against you is a recipe to lose. (Ted Cruz, on the other hand, views this antagonistic relationship as a key to victory for him.) This McCain quote suggests that Paul's effort have paid off; he's never going to be McCain's guy but neither will the Arizona Republican go out of his way to say or do things to try and keep the nomination from Paul if it seems obvious the race is headed that way.