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Rand Paul Courts Establishment Money, but the GOP Establishment Bites Back

Rand Paul

Rand Paul (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Rand Paul, the iconoclastic, libertarian-isolationist who’s thinking about the White House in 2016, is getting some flak in Iowa. An avatar of the GOP’s far right, Paul will be in Iowa in June to speak at the state Republican party convention, along with two other GOP 2016 long shots, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. However, perhaps as a pre-emptive move, because Paul has shown some strength in recent Iowa polls, the Republican establishment in Iowa executed a power play against Paul’s allies, and the allies of his father, former Representative Ron Paul (R.-Texas), ousting the “liberty” faction tied to the Pauls from control of the state GOP apparatus. According to The Des Moines Register, an alliance of mainstream-establishment Republicans and evangelicals—who are a leading force in Iowa politicscame together to get rid of the Ron Paul/Rand Paul acolytes who took over the state GOP in 2012.

It’s another sign that Rand Paul doesn’t stand much of a chance of winning the GOP nomination, though—like his father—he can last long into the primary season by relying on his rather fanatical, government-hating crew of radicals.

Still, Paul is a powerful force, and one that has bamboozled a number of left-progressives drawn to Paul because of his opposition to interventions abroad and domestic spying at home. Even Ralph Nader, quixotically now seeking a left-right alliance against corporatism, seems to want the liberal left to eschew Hillary Clinton for Paul. Recently, Nader said that Rand Paul might emerge as a leader of the “alliance” he seeks. Why Nader, who almost singlehandedly invented the modern version of government regulation that developed in the 1960s and ’70s, thinks that libertarians—who hate any and all government meddlin’ in people’s affairs—might support Nader’s ideas about anti-corporatism is beyond us.

In an analysis of the Iowa GOP’s move against Paulism, Jennifer Jacobs of the Register said that it “puts a new face on the Iowa GOP,” adding that “big donors who closed their checkbooks may start giving money to the state party again.” The Paul-allied liberty faction will fall back on local organizing in a bid to aid Paul’s campaign in the caucus state between now and 2016, she wrote. And the state party can focus on re-electing Governor Terry Branstad, she added.

Meanwhile, speaking of big money, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—who heads the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and is also a rival of Paul’s among would-be candidates in 2016—will make his first visit to Iowa in two years this month to raise money for Branstad. Christie, who’s been able to pull in record-setting amount for the RGA since taking over as chairman last fall, has also scheduled a fundraising trip to another early primary state, South Carolina, to raise money for Governor Nikki Haley. As the Register reports, and as Christie Watch noted recently, when Christie was asked whether his bullying, tough-guy style would appeal to Iowans, he replied: “They love me in Iowa, too.”

Unstated among the motives for the ouster of the Paulists in Iowa is Ron and Rand Paul’s fervent opposition to US interventionism overseas, a position that has attracted some on the left and enraged hawks, neoconservative and pro-Israel partisans. Paul’s views are in tune not only with the anti-interventionist left but much of the public, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found that “47 percent of respondents said the United States should dial down its activity in foreign affairs, versus 19 percent who said the country should be more active around the globe.” That’s a stunning turnaround from the period just after 9/11, when revenge-minded Americans backed the George W. Bush administration’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

But Paul isn’t ceding the Republican center to the likes of Christie, Jeb Bush and other centrist-conservatives. According to The Washington Post, he’s making eyes at the network of Mitt Romney supporters and fundraisers. In late April, Paul hobnobbed with Romney’s establishment-minded folks in Boston, reported the Post:

The freshman senator attended the luncheon at the private-equity firm Solamere Capital, a Boston-area company led by Romney’s his former national finance chairman, Spencer Zwick, and Romney’s oldest son, Tagg. Romney himself serves as a senior adviser to the firm and has an office there, although he did not attend the gathering. Zwick arranged a private audience of just a dozen key members of Romney’s inner circle, including senior advisers Beth Myers, Bob White and Ron Kaufman.

And, as Nick Confessore reports in The New York Times, Paul has backing from a number of wealthy libertarians, including high-tech types, among whom his book, Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused and Imprisoned by the Feds, is a popular attraction. (No doubt, when discussing government “bullies,” Paul has stopped mentioning the alleged harassment of Cliven Bundy, the kooky, slave-loving western holdout who took up arms against the feds, and who previously had Rand Paul’s support.) The Times reports:

As he has risen in prominence as a Republican presidential contender, Mr. Paul is avidly courting a small but influential cluster of wealthy libertarians. His pursuit offers an intriguing window into an eclectic network of potential donors who have made fortunes in Silicon Valley start-ups and Wall Street hedge funds, a group that could form a vital donor base if he makes a bid for the Republican nomination. A tight-knit tribe of philanthropists and entrepreneurs, they have exerted enormous intellectual influence on conservative policy.

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And the Times adds that Paul is also quietly courting the Koch brothers:

Like other Republican contenders, Mr. Paul is seeking support among the 200 or so donors—many of them outsiders to the traditional Republican money establishment—who belong to Freedom Partners, the donor club overseen by Charles and David H. Koch, perhaps the nation’s most influential libertarians. He has spoken at the Kochs’ annual seminars for conservative donors, and, last fall, Mr. Paul met with David Koch in New York.

Time magazine, too, has picked up Paul’s wooing of the Silicon Valley libertarians. And CNN, in a piece headlined “Rand Paul and the techies: A love story,” says that area technology types were recently impressed by Paul’s pro-Bitcoin chatter. In an interview with Fortune, Paul made his pitch to the techie-rich:

Almost everybody I talk to out there … will say, “You know what? We think Silicon Valley is a little more libertarian than it is Democrat, even though 80 to 90% of the money went to President Obama.” And it’s been a deterrent to some Republicans going out there. Many more of them are libertarian-leaning Republicans than they are Democrats, and they may not know it yet. But actually most of them do know it. Frankly a lot of people who supported President Obama will say, “You know what? It turns out I am a lot more fiscally conservative than President Obama on taxes and regulation.” They’re not happy about either one of those. But they’re more moderate on social issues than the Republicans are.

Most Republicans and independent analysts believe that there is a ceiling on Pauls ambitions, that he’ll eventually be limited to the Ayn Rand–loving, NRA-supporting, regulation-hating, government-bashing libertarian right and its hard-core constituency, and that he’ll alienate establishment GOPers, social conservatives and evangelicals who make up the principal base of the party. Still, if Christie falters, Bush decides to opt out, and other centrists don’t run, Paul could pull it off.

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