WaPo’s Robert Costa has a big puffy article today recounting Rand Paul’s efforts to expand his political and fundraising base beyond his father’s. According to his account, it’s all going swimmingly:
Sen. Rand Paul has become the first Republican to assemble a network in all 50 states as a precursor to a 2016 presidential run, the latest sign that he is looking to build a more mainstream coalition than the largely ad hoc one that backed his father’s unsuccessful campaigns.
Paul’s move, which comes nearly two years before the 2016 primaries, also signals an effort to win the confidence of skeptical members of the Republican establishment, many of whom doubt that his appeal will translate beyond the libertarian base that was attracted to Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman.
Rand Paul’s nationwide organization, which counts more than 200 people, includes new backers who have previously funded more traditional Republicans, along with longtime libertarian activists. Paul, of Kentucky, has also been courting Wall Street titans and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who donated to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, attending elite conclaves in Utah and elsewhere along with other GOP hopefuls.
Not so fast, says Slate‘s Dave Weigel, a writer who focused on Ron Paul’s “revolution” more closely than most:
Paul’s network has been the strongest of any potential 2016er since, oh, the day after Romney lost.. Costa notes, for example, that “billionaire Peter Thiel” is one of Paul’s “top west coast allies.” I should hope so, because Thiel plowed $2.6 million into a Super PAC that bought ads for Ron Paul in 2012. Costa reports that Nevada’s GOP chair and Iowa’s outgoing GOP chair are on team Paul, but close observers know they won their jobs with the support of Ron Paul’s movement. Costa’s story suggests that the elite of the r3volution [Weigel’s preferred term for the original Ron Paul Revolution based on an early Paulite logo] are staying with Paul and that he’s smartly been courting donors who didn’t have a horse for 2016 yet.
So while Rand Paul does have some new backers, they have hardly displaced his old man’s network:
Rand Paul’s network absolutely reaches across all 50 states. The spadework of the Campaign for Liberty, created after Ron Paul’s 2008 run, created the conditions for Rand Paul to build a new infrastructure based on his own appeal and causes. It’s like a mansion built on the bones of a duplex built on the bones of a ranch house. And it wants the press to tour the mansion.
Costa has accommodated this effort abundantly.
In my own TPMCafe piece this week on Rand Paul’s challenge in overcoming Ron Paul’s often peculiar beliefs and associations, I noted his association with the Revolution was too recent and too thorough to be disregarded just because he wants to rebrand himself. So we need to be skeptical of claims that he offers an entirely different product with an entirely different group of investors.