The big questions about the speech and political-red-meat-hurling event known as CPAC are always a)will a rock star emerge? b)who (if anyone) will separate themselves from the pack? c)who can define themselves as the leader of the future versus steward of the Republican status quo?
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who developed a large number of Republican groupies for his talking filibuster political rockfest recently, looks like he has the potential to answer all three questions with his own name. Among hard-core Republicans, that is. So far there’s little sign that Paul can appeal to the emerging demographic groups the GOP lost in 2012. But even so, Paul’s comments do sharply stake out turf:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday told conservative activists the Republican Party had grown “stale and moss covered” and said the GOP needs a more libertarian approach that makes freedom the movement’s defining principle.
How could anyone call Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, or John Boehner moss covered? Aren’t they the epitome of younger, more dynamic political thought and principle?
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the Kentucky senator offered a revamped version of his father’s hands-off libertarian vision for Republicans — and positioned himself as a leader capable of confronting the GOP establishment.
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don’t think we need to name any names, do we? Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere,” Paul said.
“If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP. We must have a message that is broad, our vision must be broad, and that vision must be based on freedom.”
Paul has publicly clashed with more senior Republicans over the past two weeks, notably Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham and McCain blasted Paul for mounting a 12-hour filibuster of President Obama’s CIA nominee, John Brennan, over the administration’s drone policy.
What we’re really witnessing here is a two-pronged operation from Paul. (1) He’s picking up the torch of his father, who proved to be a popular Republican niche candidate who couldn’t go behind a certain point politically. (2)He’s showing (again) about how he has the oratorical chops to perhaps go beyond where his Dad was and be a serious candidate…one who isn’t just niche.
But, again, is largely Paul wooing his own party. It’s hard to believe a big chunk of indpendents, moderates, Latinos, African-Americans, gays and post-Baby Boomer women will find Paul (at this point) as appealing as many GOPers and libertarians do.
Then again, things change in politics.
Just ask President Mitt Romney.