Was I Unfair To Rand Paul Yesterday?

Yesterday, I harshly criticized Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. The campaign is not doing well by any objective measure. The fundraising has been relatively poor compared to other top tier candidates and he has been steadily declining in the polls.

As is usually case when anyone on the center-right criticizes Rand Paul, his most hardcore defenders pounce on it. The charges leveled against me were that I was either out to get Rand Paul and being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian or that I had fallen for media spin and was being unfair to Paul.

I have written numerous positive pieces about Rand Paul. I like the man and agree with most of his policies. But I am also a journalist and a commentator. I would be dishonest to my readers and to myself if I did not say what I honestly believe. I tell what I perceive to be the truth. If I get any conclusive evidence to the contrary, I will issue a retraction of something I said. It’s the only honest thing to do. It does not matter who or what I support if my readers do not believe that I am honest or allow my personal agenda to get in the way of the truth.

One specific part of the Rand Paul piece some took issue were my comments on his Iran stance. I quoted a Buzzfeed article about an interview he gave with Mark Levin on Tuesday night. After the Buzzfeed quote I said this:

Of the arguments to bomb Iran, this one might be the most unpersuasive yet. What good is bombing Iran going to do if it will help them a bomb faster in the long run? Will Paul commit to a likely necessary ground invasion of Iran in that scenario? This is also an argument that will be soundly rejected by Paul’s anti-war base.

Rand Paul has nothing to gain by trying to be the hawk in the race. Hawks do not either trust or like Rand Paul. Paul’s best bet on Iran was to be the adult in the room. Right now the one pulling it off is Jeb Bush.

As Jack Hunter at Rare pointed out today, Paul’s remarks on Iran are not really new. Since 2010, he has been consistent in not ruling out military force. However, I was not questioning that.

My problem with Paul’s remarks is that they were incoherent and they were a symptom of his campaign being off message. I stand by both of those criticisms. 

If you listen to the soundclip of the interview, Rand starts off well enough. When Rand says that he wouldn’t rule out the use of force in response to Levin’s hypothetical scenario of Iran building nukes, he should’ve shut up. When he went on to try explain why bombing Iran isn’t a good idea, he undermined his entire argument and turned it into an incoherent ramble.

https://soundcloud.com/buzzfeedandrew/rand-paul-hawks-it-up-on-mark-levin

Senator Rand Paul’s position on Iran is different from the one he expressed in 2007 and 2008 when campaigning for his father. The defense from charges of flip-flopping is easy. Paul was simply speaking on behalf of his father back then and now things have changed. The hardcore libertarians who won’t be persuaded by that argument probably won’t support Paul anyway and they’re waiting for Gary Johnson or Jessie Ventura to get in the race.

All of the attacks on those who criticize the Paul campaign do not hide that fact that the Paul campaign is still stumbling. Yet more proof of this came out today in National Journal.

Charlie Cook got his hands on a unique poll that was done for Ted Cruz campaign by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research from July 14-15. The poll is different from most polls in that it is a poll of the most likely Republican primary and caucus voters instead of just registered Republican voters. To say it is bad news for Rand Paul is an understatement. Here are the findings:

The poll for the Cruz campaign starts off with a trial heat, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at the top among real-likely voters at 17 percent, followed by Trump with 15 percent, well within the 3.5-point margin of error for this survey. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush follows in third with 11 percent, then a two-way tie for fourth between Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson at 8 percent. Next comes Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 6 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 5 percent, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 4 percent. Another 12 percent chose someone else, and 16 percent were undecided (polls of likely voters usually show lower numbers of undecided).

[..]When asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate, the candidate with the highest favorable rating was Rubio with 66 percent, and an unfavorable rating of 12 percent, followed by Huckabee (64/23), Walker (61/11), Cruz (60/16), and Carson (59/8). Bush and Trump were tied with 59 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable, while Paul had 50 percent favorable and 33 percent unfavorable.

When looking at these ratings, it’s useful to look at the ratio of favorables to unfavorables. Carson had the best ratio with 7.4 to 1, Rubio and Walker tied at second with 5.5-1 and Cruz fourth at 3.8 to 1. The four with weakest ratios were Huckabee at 2.7-1, Trump and Bush tied with 1.7-1 and finally Paul at 1.5-1.

The numbers are consistent with other polling. Either the polls are way off and there’s a lot of Rand Paul support out there we’re not aware of, or it’s panic time at the Paul campaign. If the polls are wrong, I am more than willing to eat my words and admit my mistake.

Rand Paul can turn it around in the debates. It will be more difficult than usual because Marco Rubio, a skilled debater, is in the same boat and Donald Trump will most likely crowd everyone out. But if Rand Paul turns in a strong debate performance, it will revive his campaign.

In the meantime Paul supporters are not doing their candidate any favors by shooting any messenger who dares to bring the bad news about the campaign’s progress, or lack there of in this case.

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