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).