So Rand Paul is announcing his presidential campaign today, and unlike the equally inexperienced and equally ideologically eccentric and equally offensive-to-the-GOP-Establishment Ted Cruz, Paul the Younger isn’t getting an uncontested day in the sun. His political equivalent of the Sin Against the Holy Ghost doesn’t involve his cranky monetary policy views that would plunge America into a semi-permanent Depression, or his eagerness to decimate the social safety net, or his “plantation” theory of African-American outreach wherein black voters are told they’ve sold their votes and souls for food stamps, or his occasional subscription to any number of weird conspiracy theories. No, Rand Paul’s getting attacked on Day One of his campaign because he hasn’t jumped onto the Bibi Is My President bandwagon and seems strangely reluctant to mobilize for war against Iran. Here’s Josh Rogin at Bloomberg View explaining the assault that will make rude noises at Paul’s announcement party:

In the first salvo of the 2016 Republican ad wars, a conservative group is about to unleash a seven-figure ad campaign targeting Senator Rand Paul for being out of step with the party on Iran, just as he launches his presidential campaign.

The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a 501(c)(4) group led by veteran Republican operative Rick Reed, will go live with its campaign against Paul on Tuesday, while the senator is in Louisville, Kentucky, announcing his presidential candidacy. The group will begin airing ads on broadcast TV, cable and the Web in several early primary states accusing Paul of being weak on Iran and tying him to the Barack Obama administration’s Iran policy, which polls show is deeply unpopular among Republican voters.

“Paul supports more negotiations with Iran while standing against more sanctions that would hold the Iranian regime accountable. That’s not a conservative position, that’s Obama’s position,” Reed told me in an interview Monday. “His longstanding position on Iran and his agreement with Obama on Iran calls into question his judgment.”

The scale of the campaign is remarkable this early on in a primary fight, and reflects not only the depth of the hostility toward Paul’s worldview among many conservatives but also the prominence of national security in the 2016 cycle.

If the name Rick Reed sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t his first involvement with nasty presidential campaign ads:

This is not the first major campaign Reed has influenced from the outside. He was the architect of the 2004 “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” campaign that attacked John Kerry’s national-security record and credentials. His new campaign against Paul will be bigger than even that effort, he said. “Foreign policy has the potential to be as big in this campaign as it was in 2004 or even greater,” Reed said. “To me, given the state of the world, that’s a good thing.”

Tuesday’s ad will hit airwaves in states that are part of Paul’s rollout, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Reed said.

And here’s the really scary part for Paul:

Reed declined to disclose his group’s donors. As a registered nonprofit, the group doesn’t have to reveal its funding sources. But there has already been reporting that several big-dollar Republican donors are planning to open up their checkbooks to attack Paul on foreign policy, including as pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

If Adelson really decided to go after Paul, there’s not much doubt he could finance a sustained attack of a size that would in most cases leave its target a smoking ruin. I dunno if the idea here is to destroy Paul tout suite, or to encourage his continued “evolution” on foreign policy towards more conventionally militarist views. But he’s being warned.

Interestingly enough, according to National Review‘s Eliana Johnson, a big part of the animus towards Paul is that he’s become a “liberal media darling” for criticizing poor ol’ George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. And he’s campaigning, of course, as a “different kind of Republican,” a conscious emulation of one of Bill Clinton’s signature slogans back in 1992. As somebody involved on the margins in that ’92 campaign, I can attest that the slogan really, really annoys people who think there’s nothing wrong with their party that cannot be solved by more courage and consistency–not a change in ideology. So obviously enough, the many Republicans who think their party’s gotten its aggressive mojo back after a few years of moping over a temporary setback in Iraq and a bracing little economic shakedown cruise don’t want to hear they need to be “different.” So Rand Paul’s got a big bullseye on his back.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.