It’s looking increasingly likely that the Paul name will make it onto the 2012 GOP primary ballot.
Corroborating speculation that he’s thinking about following in his father’s footsteps on the road to the White House, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a wave of Kentucky media appearances on Thursday that he intends to “explore” the possibility of a presidential bid should Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, decide not to run.
“The only decision Rand has made is that he won’t be running against his dad and that it’s important that these ideas of the tea party are represented in the primary,” Jesse Benton, a political consultant for Rand, told National Journal. “But right now, in general, national political leaders from both parties lack commitment to wanting to tackle problems in serious ways.”
Benton said Ron will decide either way “in about six to eight weeks.” Asked if Rand would seriously consider running in the place of his father, Benton paused, then said, “I think so."
“At the very least it will certainly give Rand a lot of pause to think and to look at options, and again, to look at what’s the best way to carry the message of the tea party in 2012,” he said.
Noting that he was speaking from the critical early primary state of New Hampshire, where Ron will headline the Dover GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan dinner on Friday, Benton pointed out that Ron’s recent schedule—including a Christian home-school rally in Iowa on Wednesday—certainly indicates that he’s testing the waters.
“It’s a very, very serious consideration for [Ron], but I’d say he’s still probably about 50-50,” Benton said.
If anyone knows the inner workings of the Paul family circle, it’s Benton. During the 2010 election cycle, he worked simultaneously with the Paul duo as Ron’s political director and Rand’s campaign manager, seeing him to a once-unlikely Senate victory. Oh yeah—he’s also married to Ron’s granddaughter and Rand’s niece. “It’s all nepotism,” Benton laughed.
According to Benton, both Pauls could satisfy the tea party’s hunger for fiscal responsibility.
“What they both share is a deep commitment to real solutions to our debt and overspending, and that’s really the glue that holds the whole tea party together,” Benton said. “Both Ron and Rand are deeply committed to that—unflapping to that, in fact—and that’s why they’d both attract the same kind of people.”
Now the question is, will it be Rand, a freshman senator who offers a fresh face and has quickly made a name for himself as a pioneer of the tea party movement, or Ron, a 76-year-old veteran of politics who has accumulated an enormous libertarian groundswell under the “Ron Paul Revolution” with two previous White House runs?
“Those are all strengths that each of them have,” Benton said. “Ron has 35 years of consistency in public life and has remained a fresh voice because he’s been so consistently focused on returning to the principles of the Constitution.… Rand has the advantage of having a similar name, and from coming fresh out of winning a Senate campaign on those principles.”
But for now, Benton stressed, “the focus is on Ron and the decision he has to make.”
If Ron decided not to take the presidential leap of faith, Benton echoed a rationale familiar to National Journal: “I think it would be because of his commitment to carry through his congressional responsibilities and make sure he doesn’t neglect his new power as the chair of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy." The position has given him more control in oversight of the Federal Reserve, which has been his favorite target of criticism throughout his House career.