Rand Paul in 2016? Not So Fast
Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru are columnists for Bloomberg View.
Margaret: I don't think his filibuster makes Senator Rand Paul a serious national figure, Ramesh, as you suggest (and as Charles Krauthammer says outright). He just doesn't convey solidity. Although I don't agree with his father, former Representative Ron Paul, his dad has a firm intellectual grounding for his sometimes wacky beliefs. He speaks confidently. The father may be able to hand off his political organization to his son, but he can't hand off his ability to thrust and parry in Republican presidential debates.
So the Paul filibuster, as beautiful a thing as it was, doesn't change the Republican firmament. Going back to our discussion about Florida's former Governor Jeb Bush and current Senator Marco Rubio: Both men have a personal warmth. Given his disappointments, Bush is amazingly cheerful and energetic, gamely pursuing his issues of education and immigration. I know the old saw about how once you fake sincerity, everything else is easy, but on immigration they both speak genuinely. Each tells heartbreaking stories about immigrant communities he has lived in.
How you talk about, and to, the people whose votes you seek is so important. Hispanics don't just care about dignity, they care about a lot of the same things any aspiring group cares about -- including how to make their small businesses thrive. But Republicans first have to deal with the fact that their party's most recent presidential nominee wanted many Hispanics to self-deport.
However Bush and Rubio sort out the presidential race, they represent the Republican hope on the Hispanic vote. Karl Rove and his ilk treat Hispanics as a voting bloc. Bush and Rubio treat them as people.
Ramesh: You suggest that Rand Paul lacks the solidity to be a serious national figure, Margaret. I think he is a much more gifted political figure than his father, unlike you, but I really have no idea whether he can go the distance.
I hope, though, that he runs for president in 2016. It’s not that I agree with his distinctive brand of libertarian conservatism -- some of what’s distinctive about it I dislike -- but it would be useful for his ideas to get a thorough debate, and for Republicans to figure out just where they stand nowadays on foreign policy and national security. We don’t have a great sense of how many Republican voters would fall into each camp if a primary campaign focused on it. For now, though, Republicans are moving in Paul’s direction -- and the carping by John McCain and Lindsey Graham about that fact will not slow the tide.
I completely agree that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have their hearts in the right place when it comes to Hispanics and immigration. I thought George W. Bush did, too, for that matter, even though I thought his approach was wrong. But two things bother me about Republican attempts to woo Hispanics.
First, too many Republican strategists see the Hispanic vote as a kind of replacement for the black vote, which they largely write off. There are good reasons to believe Republicans won’t get a majority of either group, and will probably do worse among blacks than Hispanics. But they out to be trying to improve their share in both groups, and it ought to be feasible.
Second, Republicans sometimes oversimplify Hispanics’ political behavior. They don’t vote for Democrats based just on immigration. They are also, as David Plouffe recently reminded us, a group that favors Obamacare by a large margin. A lot of Republicans are eager for their party to move on immigration or other social issues. It’s the bread-and-butter issues, though, that are hurting the party most -- and not just among Hispanics.
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