The Senate can use him.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rand Paul's Exit Is Good for Democracy

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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Once we had 17 officially declared Republicans running for president. With the departures of Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee this week, now there are only nine.  Rick Santorum is expected to leave any minute now, and it wouldn't be surprising if Carly Fiorina did as well. And if Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich disappoint in New Hampshire's primary on Tuesday, they could be history soon too. (Kasich has said as much, and even some Bush supporters are saying New Hampshire may be the end for him unless he rallies strongly.)

So we don't appear to be on our way to a contested GOP convention, as many speculated might happen, and we're certainly not on the road to having five candidates win significant numbers of delegates well into the primaries, as Karl Rove predicted. Winnowing works.

No one can blame Iowa's quirkiness this year for winnowing some candidates and not others. It isn't as if the dropouts were doing well in national polls either. 

Yes, Iowa chose Ted Cruz over Ben Carson, Huckabee and Santorum, and Marco Rubio over Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. But those decisions probably reflected the national party's preference as well. 

Rand Paul was not going to be the party's choice in any case. And there was no "libertarian moment." What probably boosted the Kentucky senator's father, Ron Paul, in his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs was the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peace (or at least the near end of U.S. military casualties) would make it hard for a peacenik candidate like his son.

But if Rand Paul winds up staying in the Senate, I agree with all those who say he may turn out to be an excellent member, able to articulate his (minority) views forcefully and find common ground with legislators from both parties to try to turn those positions into legislation. This isn't to endorse his policies. It's just to say it's good for lots of minority opinions to have effective representation in Congress, especially the Senate. I like partisan hacks, too, but we have no shortage of those. 

  1. I don't count former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who has officially declared but isn't campaigning enough to have bothered qualifying for the ballot in enough states to have a shot at the nomination. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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