Election stories knocked Iran from the headlines on Tuesday as Rand Paul formally announced his candidacy for president.
Paul is certainly a candidate to watch in the current crop of GOP prospects. The libertarian-leaning junior senator from Kentucky is not easily categorized. The son of notorious libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul, Rand has been touted as heir apparent to the face of American Libertarianism. But his speech on Tuesday reminded voters that he paints a more complicated picture.
Paul has a number of things going for him. He has a political philosophy that appeals to younger voters. He has consistently championed anti establishment and anti Washington themes, which has clear – and resounding – Tea Party appeal. And he has a strong record of bipartisan cooperation on issues like criminal justice reform, which demonstrates a commitment to legislating – even if it means compromising with Democrats.
But with such a crowded primary field, Paul needs to take a different tack and appeal to wider swath of voters if he wants to defeat more mainstream conservative candidates. It’s not enough for Paul to do the same things differently; instead, he must do different things.
But in his announcement speech, Paul tried to be too many things to too many people.
Paul toed the libertarian line on domestic issues throughout the speech, calling for a balanced budget amendment, debt reduction, and elimination of foreign aid. But while the domestic policy portion of the speech was unsurprising, the foreign policy section raised eyebrows.
While he has been careful to eschew the label of “isolationist,” historically Paul is certainly closer to that end of the spectrum than other GOP presidential hopefuls. And yet Paul called for a “foreign policy that protects American interests,” and cited Reagan—whose presidency was marked by big defense spending and numerous guerritas in Central America— as a foreign policy role model.