NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – The only set of rules that Senator Rand Paul cares about is the U.S. Constitution. Maybe that’s why the senator from Kentucky disregarded CPAC’s unofficial dress code and took to the stage in a pair of jeans and cowboy boots. Senator Paul also complained that he was only given 13 minutes to speak. He then held up two binders as he told the crowd he brought along 13 hours of material just in case. The crowd went wild.
Senator Paul was introduced immediately following a speech from his Senate colleague Marco Rubio. While Rubio told that audience that the Republican Party didn’t need to change what it believes, Paul told the CPAC audience that the GOP “has grown stale and moss-covered.” It became evident that Paul wasn’t taking a jab at Rubio, but at Sen. John McCain when he added, “I don’t think we need to name any names.”
McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized the Paul for his recent filibuster.
“The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere,” Paul told the audience. “If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”
This was the moment when Paul transitioned his speech from talking about what’s going on in Washington and his recent filibuster and tipped his hand to his 2016 presidential prospects. If anyone had doubts that Sen. Rand Paul wouldn’t strike the same libertarian themes as his father’s campaigns, that notion was put to rest when he advocated for softer drug laws.
“Ask the Facebook generation whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use, and you’ll hear a resounding ‘no’,” Paul stated. “Ask the Facebook generation if they want to bail out too-big-to-fail banks with their tax dollars and you’ll hear a ‘hell, no,'” he added.
Paul also talked about the importance of the second amendment in his speech, which is an important issue when the Iowa caucuses roll around. Gun advocates have long said that without the second amendment, there wouldn’t be a first amendment, but Paul added a twist to that saying in his speech. Paul said that without the fourth amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause, there would be no second amendment.
Paul’s ability to take the same constitutional argument that he has been making on the issue of drones and make it into a second amendment issue is smart politics. Finding ways to weave constitutional arguments into issues that primary voters and caucus goers are passionate about will pay dividends in the future.
In past elections, candidates were able to shake off any criticism that came their way from Ron Paul as if he was just some crazy old man. That’s not going to be the case when/if Senator Rand Paul is the one asking the questions. That could make the race for the 2016 Republican nomination for president a fascinating campaign.
As Senator Paul has proved in his time in office and in speeches like the one he gave at CPAC on Thursday, he’s no lightweight when it comes to policy. He’s also not a lightweight when it comes to his 2016 presidential prospects. His father proved to be creditable candidate in the Iowa Caucuses, and Senator Paul is a much more marketable and appealing candidate than his father was.
Ron Paul may be responsible for introducing the liberty movement to Republican politics, but Rand Paul may be the one who makes it mainstream.
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