Not all announcements matter. This one does.

Photographer: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Four Reasons Rand Paul's Speech Matters

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Rand Paul has been running for president for years. I don’t consider him a viable candidate, because most people in the Republican Party who care about foreign policy consider him unacceptable. So why does his official announcement today that he is in the 2016 race matter?  

  • A strong kickoff can’t save a nomination that is going nowhere, but it can produce a temporary polling surge for a candidate, as Dave Weigel notes at Bloomberg Politics. That spike usually doesn’t last, but a candidate who never gets one could wind up falling out of contention even if he or she is viable. 
  • Official announcements set deadlines for a campaign. The event itself involves careful planning. Whether campaign themes and slogans and the rest have any effect on the eventual vote, a lot of this stuff has to be ready by announcement day. The party actors who make the decision on the nominee expect more from a candidate who has already declared, so the campaign has to be ready to deliver. 
  • The candidate's announcement speech isn't likely to affect voting in Iowa and New Hampshire next year. But electoral effects aren't all that matters. Campaigns are also part of representation. Politicians make promises -- not just about specific policies, but also about what kind of office-holders they will be if elected. They promise, in effect, who they will be. And then they usually try to keep those promises if elected and govern with those promises in mind. 
  • Even losing candidates are part of the internal battle over what a party will be and who it will include. High-profile speeches by candidates can provide clues about that conflict -- about what the parties value and what different groups believe is worth fighting for. 

So there’s plenty to mine from Paul's event today and from the announcements of the others who join the 2016 race in the coming weeks and months -- even if these occasions don't change a single vote in any primary or caucus.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net