Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election in Louisville on April 7. Although the 2016 Republican race will be a crowded one, Paul is one of the most interesting candidates in the bunch because of his ability to appeal to constituents outside the typical GOP core.
He’s a libertarian-leaning politician with staunchly conservative fiscal views, but he has more liberal leaning views on social issues. Compared to his current competition, Paul might be the Republican Party’s best hope at attracting Democratic and Independent voters.
Paul is entering the presidential race at an opportune time for libertarianism. He’s following in the footsteps of his father — Ron Paul, also a former presidential candidate — who remains an influential leader in the libertarian movement but was never able to move past the fringes of the mainstream Republican party. The Paul name is well known among libertarians, youthful conservatives and tea partyers, and Rand could use his family’s history to leverage his way to the White House.
Like his father, Paul appeals to those who typically avoid any association with the GOP: minorities and the socially liberal youth. Last fall, during the height of the city’s tension, Paul traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, to meet with the city’s African-American leaders. He called for a “demilitarization of the police” and a reformation of criminal justice.
He’s against the interventionist foreign policy and government surveillance started by President George W. Bush and perpetuated by the Obama administration. He opposes the War on Drugs. He’s a member of the Republican Party by name, but many of his social views reach further to the left than President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or any of the other traditionalist Democrats currently in or running for office.
Despite Paul’s liberal-leaning views on social issues, he’s still a member of the Republican Party for good reason. He’s against same-sex marriage, which he has referred to as a “moral crisis.” He has a harsh stance on immigration reform. He’s in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, and he’s against both abortion and gun control legislation. Many of his views are even more conservative than those espoused by his father.
But like his father, Paul’s diversity in viewpoints demonstrate that he is an independent thinker that isn’t comfortable adhering to certain values simply because they align with those of his party. He’s an honest politician, and that quality alone could be enough to attract votes from the left and center of the political spectrum. It also could help re-energize young conservative voters, as Paul himself has claimed he’s trying to do.
“I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to go places Republicans haven’t gone,” Paul said, according to The Hill. “Not just throwing out red meat, but actually throwing out something intellectually enticing to people who haven’t been listening to our message before.”
The Republican Party is desperate to reach those who are likely to ignore the same message that they’ve been repeating for the past several years. The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
According to a 2012 Gallup poll, non-Hispanic whites accounted for 89 percent of the Republican Party’s population. The next highest group, Hispanics, accounted for just 6 percent. If the GOP wants to win in 2016, they will need to broaden their historically narrow horizons. Compared to the current crop of candidates — Sen. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, a former governor — Paul might be the party’s best hope.
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