Rand Paul Takes Short Post-CPAC Victory Lap
Policy + Politics

Rand Paul Takes Short Post-CPAC Victory Lap

Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Less than a day after winning his second Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) presidential straw poll in as many years, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went on Fox News Sunday to make the case for something few of those voting at the annual event would likely support: cooperating with the Obama administration.

Paul dominated the vote at the conservative gala, taking 31 percent of the ballots. His closest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was far behind with 11 percent, and other GOP luminaries, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and the most recent Republican vice presidential nominee, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, all had only single digits.

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On Fox News Sunday, Paul said his showing at CPAC is partly a function of the nature of the audience.

“The one thing about CPAC is it’s just chock full of young people.” Their lives, he said, revolve around their cell phones, making them receptive to his message about preserving personal privacy against government monitoring of private communications.

“They are very aware of their privacy,” he said. “Not only conservative young people, but young people across the country are fed up with idea that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to cell phones.”

Whether support from CPAC attendees actually translates into broader acceptance by the GOP electorate is, of course, a big question. And Paul’s stance on various issues, including the treatment of non-violent criminals in drug cases, may limit his appeal to a broader audience. More than a year and a half before the next presidential election, however, Paul remains happy to defend them.

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Host Chris Wallace noted that Paul recently had lunch with Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about the mandatory minimum sentencing issue. “Senator, I don’t have to tell you that while you’re having lunch with Eric Holder, there are a lot of conservatives who want to see him removed from office,” Wallace said.

“I don’t think anyone is ever going to question my ability to stand up to the president or to Eric Holder,” Paul replied. “My positions are very, very clear.”

He pointed out that he is suing President Obama in federal court over the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices. He said he told Holder during their lunch last month, “I will be seeing you in court.”

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Then, he added, “But the thing is, at the same time in Washington, [the] people who believe in their principles so strongly that they are able to talk to the other side and the public at large will know that I’m not giving up on my principles.

“I don’t mind saying that I agree with the president or Eric Holder on this, “ he added, “because I think the people who know me know that I will stand up to the president when he is wrong, which I think is quite a bit of the time.”

If Paul was aiming for a tone of reasonableness and a willingness to find common ground, his closest competitor at CPAC, Cruz, struck an entirely different tone.

The combative Texan raised eyebrows at the conference when he accused three of the most recent Republican presidential nominees – Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney – of failing to stand up for their principals out of political expediency.

Related: Cruz – The Tea Party Texan Who Wants to Save America from Itself

In an interview taped at CPAC and aired on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous, Cruz seemed anything but willing to work with the administration, doubling down on his vow to “repeal every word” of the Affordable Care Act and claiming that Obama’s demonstration of “weakness” was the reason for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Paul Ryan, who finished in a tie for eighth place in the CPAC poll along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said that the different stances taken by members of the GOP reflect “different poles within a big tent.”

“We are not having disagreements among ourselves on principles or on policies,” he said. “The differences that have occurred have been really over tactics. I think we should all put it in perspective. I don’t think there is this mass civil war.”

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