Rand Paul Summons Political Operatives for 2016 Strategy Session

The closely guarded gathering ahead of Paul’s likely presidential run will happen only eight days after the midterms.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at an event hosted by the Iowa GOP Des Moines Victory Office on August 6, 2014 in Urbandale, Iowa.
National Journal
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Shane Goldmacher
Oct. 22, 2014, 6:02 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul is sum­mon­ing his top strategists and polit­ic­al ad­visers to Wash­ing­ton one week after the Novem­ber elec­tion for a strategy ses­sion over his widely ex­pec­ted 2016 pres­id­en­tial bid.

The gath­er­ing of Paul’s top lieu­ten­ants in the na­tion’s cap­it­al has been quietly or­gan­ized by Doug Stafford, his chief polit­ic­al strategist, who began reach­ing out to key fig­ures in Paul’s polit­ic­al world earli­er this month, mul­tiple sources told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Stafford has told in­vit­ees to re­serve Nov. 12 on their cal­en­dar both dur­ing the day and in­to the night. Paul him­self is ex­pec­ted to at­tend some of the meet­ings.

“This is the come-to-Je­sus be­fore the planned launch,” said one Paul in­sider, who has been in­vited to the gath­er­ing.

The meet­ing of the Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an’s kit­chen Cab­in­et has been kept un­der wraps, with most of the in­vit­ees not even told who else will be there. Stafford has yet to cir­cu­late a form­al agenda, though few on “Team Rand,” as Stafford some­times calls the group, need to be told the talks will fo­cus on a pres­id­en­tial run.

“As I un­der­stand it, this meet­ing is to both lit­er­ally and sym­bol­ic­ally change fo­cus after the Novem­ber elec­tion,” said an­oth­er in­vit­ee, “and be­gin to take de­lib­er­ate ac­tion to­ward a po­ten­tial 2016 run.”

The group will huddle one week and one day after the midterm elec­tions, as Con­gress re­turns to Wash­ing­ton to open its lame-duck le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion, and roughly 15 months be­fore the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Paul has made little ef­fort to mask that he is lay­ing the ground­work for a pres­id­en­tial run. He spent Wed­nes­day cam­paign­ing for Re­pub­lic­ans across Iowa, and on Thursday he is speak­ing at the Cen­ter for the Na­tion­al In­terest, a for­eign-policy-fo­cused think tank, in New York.

“Un­less Kel­ley says no, he’s run­ning,” Stafford re­cently told The New York­er, re­fer­ring to Paul’s wife, Kel­ley Ashby. Stafford de­clined to com­ment for this story.

In the buildup to 2016, Paul has already brought two former Iowa Re­pub­lic­an Party chair­men, A.J. Spiker and Steve Grubbs, onto his payroll in the caucus-kick­off state. In New Hamp­shire, he has brought in­to the fold Mi­chael Bi­undo, a vet­er­an GOP strategist. And he has hired John Yob, who worked for John Mc­Cain’s and Rick San­tor­um’s pres­id­en­tial bids, as his na­tion­al polit­ic­al dir­ect­or and head of his op­er­a­tion in Michigan.

Paul has had a dizzy­ing sched­ule in im­port­ant early-primary states throughout 2014 and has cour­ted sup­port from every wing of the Re­pub­lic­an Party, from the busi­ness com­munity (he has ap­peared in some U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce ads) to the tea party that first thrust him in­to the Sen­ate (he’s su­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion with Freedom­Works).

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