With a Smooth Performance, Rand Paul Lays Out His Agenda

Analyzing the style, substance, and impact of the Kentucky senator's presidential announcement.

It’s Official: Rand Paul Announces 2016 Candidacy

Style: Clean distillation of the family's liberty agenda, smartly laced with optimism throughout. Smooth TelePrompTer delivery with a pro's sense of timing, pausing often to let the enthusiastic audience applause wash over him. As usual, his delivery was rather reserved and largely unsmiling, and his focus more on political head-butting than pulling at heart strings.

Substance: Proposed a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, a requirement that bills be read before votes are cast, tax reform, infrastructure spending, school choice, criminal justice reform, and more. Not a lot of new ideas, but nonetheless the foundation of an actual agenda.


Best moment: His well-woven nationalistic/populist riff on foreign aid, foreign foes, and bringing America's wealth back home struck a big chord with the crowd.

Worst moment: Stories about helping a vision-impaired couple in Guatemala and his ailing grandmother were lovely as written, but Paul's detached style turned them into low-energy downers for a crowd that lost the thread. 

Overall: Supremely confident and serene, he met the basic goal of presenting a speech that could serve as a nomination acceptance or an inaugural address. Crisply laid out a foreign policy that will find tens of millions of sympathetic souls, even as he continues to face national security questions from his own party. Introduction by wife Kelley Paul was powerful, charming, and probably as good as any '16er spouse could provide (excluding William Jefferson Clinton, naturally). His criticism of both parties, denouncement of civil liberties encroachments and foreign entanglements, and call for infrastructure spending will not be found in any other 2016 GOP candidate's announcement speech, and sets him apart from the field. That is the essence of the Paul candidacy on which he will rise or fall.

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