The Definitive H&H Rand Paul Scouting Report

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann analyze the Rand candidacy in 22 points.

It’s Official: Rand Paul Announces 2016 Candidacy

What he’s got: Built-in activist base; distinctive quasi-libertarian orientation; manifest intelligence and political agility; understanding of need to attract voters not currently part of the Republican coalition.

What he lacks: Thick skin to deal with criticism and tough questions from rivals and the press; hands-on foreign policy and/or management experience; a substantial record of legislative accomplishments.

Biggest question mark: How much, if at all, will he be able to grow his support beyond his current adherents?

Senator Rand Paul talks with students at the University of South Carolina on Sept. 30, 2014.

Senator Rand Paul talks with students at the University of South Carolina on Sept. 30, 2014. 

Photographer: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

Message: The federal government is too big and the Republican Party is too small.

Core constituencies: Younger voters; libertarians; his father’s fans.

Signature issues: Privacy; monetary policy, including auditing the Fed; criminal justice reform; overall scale and scope of the federal government.

Fundraising mojo: Solid potential from small, online donations and libertarian super-PAC angels; comparatively little from usual establishment/Wall Street sources.

Spouse and family: Wife Kelley as involved as any other Republican 2016er spouse; sons William, Duncan, and Robert; father provides both a legacy to build on as well as many touchy—and some potentially explosive—questions about past votes and quotes.

Perceived electability as GOP nominee: Faces establishment skepticism that he can expand the electoral map and reach the national security threshold, although he often does well in head-to-head polling against Hillary Clinton.

Rand Paul, his wife Kelley, and their son wave to supporters during an election night party on Nov. 2, 2010, in Bowling Green, Ky.

Rand Paul, his wife Kelley, and their son wave to supporters during an election night party on Nov. 2, 2010, in Bowling Green, Ky.

Photographer: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

National-security credentials: Talks a good game, but faces questions about isolationist-seeming tendencies in general and support for Israel in particular.

Television skills: Handles easy interviews well, but often bristles under pressure. Hasn’t yet shown a ready sense of humor or ability to display heartfelt emotion when it's called for.

Social media/online chops: Very active on Twitter and has one of the few personal brands in the party that engages an online audience.

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Media coverage: Magnet for reporters and generates plenty of buzzy stories—but ones laced with skepticism.

Polling strength: Consistently scores in the low teens in key states and nationally, but appears to have a ceiling currently.

The Big Mo: Has stalled a bit in 2015 after a strong 2013-14.

Fire in the belly: Seems as ready to do what it takes to win as anyone in the race.

The hang test: Comes across as a jeans-loving, ordinary guy (in a good way), but sometimes lets his apparent boredom or irritation with the process show through.

Challenges party orthodoxy: Often elevates privacy in balance with national security; opposes military adventurism; willing to work with Democrats on high-profile issues.

Best moment of 2016 cycle so far: Won the CPAC straw poll.

Worst moment of 2016 cycle so far: In a live interview with Kelly Evans of CNBC, first made a scientifically dubious claim when defending his support for parents’ choice on childhood vaccinations, then shushed and scolded Evans in response to other questions. 

Best Bloomberg Politics moment: “Why do I think I can do it?”

Why Rand Paul Wants to Be President

Picture he doesn’t want you to see: Wearing dad jeans on the DC metro in 2011.  

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post omitted the name of one of Rand Paul's sons.

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