Rand Paul In 2016: Embracing And Avoiding A Political Legacy

When Rand Paul  enters the Republican presidential race Tuesday, he’ll start with an advantage few of his rivals have: A dedicated legion of supporters, well-organized and battle-tested.

But for the Kentucky senator to have a chance to win the nomination, he’ll have to expand beyond the libertarian army he inherited from his father, and fast. 

So far, reviews are mixed, as he moves closer to the more hawkish Republican mainstream on defense and foreign policy, while still stressing his libertarian-leaning views against domestic security surveillance and drug sentencing laws.

Paul is regarded as a top contender, but usually is  third, fourth or fifth in Republican voter polls. He should have some star power, but he has been overshadowed by upstart Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Paul needs to show he can raise big money, or he risks being outspent by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, among others.

To have a decent chance at the nomination, Paul must change the minds of Republican voters and donors who think he’s not strong enough on defense and foreign policy, argued Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell advised the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a defense hawk who has feuded with Paul over national security issues. Paul needs to present himself as a “reluctant warrior,” O’Connell said.

Read more from David Lightman and Sean Cockerham at McClatchyDC

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Analysis & Political Strategy