Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) thinks Mitt Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) might actually help him win the 2016 GOP presidential primary.
And Paul isn’t the only one who thinks this trio of high-powered rivals could give him an edge.
In a recent conversation with Business Insider, a close ally of one of the other candidates went so far as to say the current likely composition of the Republican field gives Paul the best shot at a victory.
“Based on where the primary electorate is right now, if there’s a frontrunner in this race from an electoral perspective, it’s probably Rand Paul,” the source said.
The theory behind this is that Romney, Christie, and Bush all are relative moderates and would split the same segment of the vote in a Republican primary. This would leave room for someone like Paul to stand out and score wins in crucial states.
In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Paul revealed this is exactly how he’d like the race to play out.
“The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. I think we have place in the party for moderates like Christie, and Bush, and Romney. And then there’ll also be conservatives,” Paul said. “Hopefully — at least from a conservative point of view — we hope the moderates will divide up the moderate vote and maybe allow a conservative to be the nominee. It’s been quite a while since we’ve really had the conservative come forward as the nominee.”
Paul also argued that his libertarian-oriented policy agenda gives him a “little bit of an edge” over his more orthodox Republican rivals.
“The libertarian issues give a little bit of an edge that brings in young people, working class, people that are concerned with privacy, minorities who are concerned with minority rights,” he said. “The question to me is whether or not that message will resonate. … I would only get involved if we really think we have a chance to win.”
However, the source allied with one of the other candidates told Business Insider they think Paul’s more libertarian, noninterventionist positioning on foreign policy is exactly why he’s in trouble in spite of the seemingly favourable circumstances.
The source argued recent foreign-policy issues, including the rise of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), have made Republican voters more eager for a candidate who will “assert” himself on the global stage. Specifically, the person suggested that the electorate is less inclined to favour noninterventionism than it was in 2012, when Paul’s father, former congressman Ron Paul, made a splash in the GOP primary and built himself a base with a libertarian-leaning campaign.
“He has a threshold question he has to answer,” the source said of Paul. “Republican primary voters understand the world is a much more dangerous place than it was four years ago, they feel like this president has put our nation and allies in a much weaker position, and want to nominate a candidate who will strengthen and assert America’s position both at home and abroad.”
The source suggested the main challenge for Paul would be whether he can change his brand on this front.
“The question is whether Rand can recast himself,” they said. “The national security piece is a huge hurdle for him in a Republican primary.”
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