An audacious 13-hour filibuster challenging the Obama administration’s drone policy and a subsequent victory in a straw poll of the Conservative Political Action Conference -- the nation’s premier conservative organization -- practically overnight turned freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky into one of the hottest prospects for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
The curly-haired ophthalmologist and son of libertarian icon Ron Paul has long championed the Tea Party’s anti-big government, anti-spending, anti-taxes and anti-foreign aid views and has repeatedly proved his bona fides with the conservative media. Now that he is being mentioned in the same breath as presidential wannabees Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, the Kentucky Republican has begun to temper his message.
Just last week, Paul gave a speech in support of legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants – two years after he pushed to end birthright citizenship of illegal immigrants. And in an appearance on Fox News Sunday last week, he voiced support for ending prison terms for convicted drug users and said the federal government should leave it to the states to decide whether to sanction same-sex marriage.
Paul is flying high, and was just invited to deliver the much coveted keynote address to the Iowa State Republican Party in May. He argues that he may be the best of the lot in bridging a left-right spectrum of views to appeal to young people, minorities and independents.
But even with his not-so-subtle shift to the center on a few key issues, some political experts say his flaws as a national candidate may be too great to overcome. And with three and a half years to go before the next presidential election, it is possible Paul has peaked too soon. For that matter, can any of the current crop of Republican presidential aspirants sustain this momentum for another three years?
The more urgent problem for Paul and other Republican hopefuls is one that was identified by the Republican National Committee in its post-election analysis issued earlier this month. In the wake of Mitt Romney’s stunning loss to President Obama Unless the country undergoes a fundamental ideological, demographic and economic shift in the next three years, the next GOP nominee is doomed to repeat the failure of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
A close examination of each possible candidate’s views paints a formidable path to victory in a national election. Taken as whole, their platforms are out of line with the views of the majority of voters who reelected President Obama last November. Their stances on social issues like gay marriage and abortion are outdated and appeal mainly to the conservative GOP base. Much of their rhetoric on immigration turns off Hispanic voters, and their policies will do little to attract women and African Americans. The party is losing young voters in droves and its platforms do little to attract them. And Republican economic policies fail to win the favor of the average American.
We are not the ones making this judgment. The RNC said the same thing in their report. They warned that without a significant rethinking of GOP policies, the party was in danger of becoming a relic. But since the report was issued, the process of reinvention has been stagnant. Republican hopefuls who spoke at CPAC a week ago did little to distance themselves from the past.
Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, considered one of his party’s freshest faces and most promising national figures, told a packed audience at opening day of CPAC in suburban Washington, D.C., that the Republican Party doesn't need any new ideas in order to succeed. "We don't need a new idea,” he said. “The idea is called America, and it still works."
Of the people being mentioned for 2016 -- Rand Paul, Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Dr. Ben Carson (a renowned neurosurgeon and rising conservative) --– none appears capable of winning a general election unless they make some drastic policy shifts. Right now, none could beat someone like Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic frontrunner for 2016. According to the GOP’s own analysis, a viable Republican candidate simply does not exist.
So we invented one.
Call him Rand Carson Rubio, or Chris Ryan Cruz, or Bobby Paul Bush. Within each of the candidates’ policies are pieces that can be cobbled together to create a platform that could compete with a Democrat. And by piecing together different elements of each candidate’s personalities, a picture of a charismatic politician emerges.