Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is “absolutely” poised take over the libertarian movement led for decades by his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, one of the budding dynasty’s senior advisers tells National Journal. The elder Paul’s continued presence in the 2012 presidential race is in large part an effort to secure funds and infrastructure for his son’s own possible White House bid in 2016.
“If [Ron] hadn’t stayed in through the last few weeks, he would not have made those trips to the donors on the West Coast, in California,” said the adviser. “That’s 30 percent of his campaign’s income that will help build his movement for years to come. Yes, Ron is 76 years old, but he has a son.”
On his third run for president, Ron Paul – whose movement’s unmatched enthusiasm has ensured he’s never want for campaign cash – has expressed little interest in pursuing a fourth. “So why is he still here? We hear that question all the time,” said the adviser, who asked not to be named because the campaign is supposed to be on hiatus from giving interviews.
In a March interview, Ron Paul’s campaign chair, Jesse Benton, laid out several best-case scenarios justifying the congressman’s unwillingness to bow out after he had failed to secure a single primary win, which included a speaking slot at the party’s August convention, or a potential running mate offer.
At the time, Benton said the goal was a brokered convention, where “we’ll get through the first round, and then we think we’ll have several hundred more who are Dr. Paul supporters but bound to another candidate. So after the first round, we pick those up,” he said. Recent activity at the Maine and Nevada state conventions suggests the theory wasn’t far off base. In Maine over the weekend, Paul supporters claimed 21 of 24 delegate seats, and in Nevada, Paul took 22 delegates to Romney’s three.
But Paul himself on Wednesday told CNN’s Newsroom that “disrupting a convention” is “against my plan – I don’t like that even being a suggestion.” He added, “Moving an agenda is very important. The best way I can do that is to maximize the number of delegates that we have.”
The senior adviser, one of about three who remain employed by Ron Paul’s campaign, admitted that as the boutique candidate continues to barrel toward August with a greatly diminished likelihood of a brokered GOP convention, the team has come to terms with the fact that he will not be the party’s nominee. Paul has, too.
“That famous question, when [Paul] was asked whether he could see himself in the White House, that wasn’t humility” he said, referring to Paul’s “not really” reply to the question. “He’s a smart guy. He knew from the beginning that he wouldn’t win it.”
Paul “isn’t running for New York Times best-seller. He can’t get a show on Fox News, which maybe [Rick] Santorum or [Newt] Gingrich were thinking about, because he has philosophical differences with the management,” the adviser said. “But there are other reasons for him to stay in this race.”
Rand Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010 after beating an establishment Republican candidate in the primary in Kentucky. Within months of taking office, the younger Paul had helped found the Senate Tea Party Caucus, tying his own knots to the small-government, anti-big spending movement with which his father has long identified. Like his father, Rand Paul has a medical degree – he is an ophthalmologist – but has had a lifelong interest in politics.
In the spring of 2011, when it was still unclear whether Ron Paul would get into the presidential race, Benton said that if he chose not run, chances were that Rand would. Rand Paul “may not win over every conspiracy theorist who’s written books on ending the Fed,” the adviser said, but he is a close enough ideological kin to his father that supporters “are transferable,” and “he’ll be in a strong position to pick up where Ron left off.”