WASHINGTON, June 28, 2015 — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is often called one of the most interesting people in American politics. However, the label has not generated much sustained buzz for his presidential campaign. He is currently in sixth place in the Real Clear Politics polling average behind such candidates as Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Paul’s problems with big donors are well-known.
The Paul campaign may not want to admit it, but it is showing signs that it will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. That is, unless they begin taking steps to reverse the decline and start building some momentum. Here’s some friendly advice to jumpstart the Paul campaign.
Smile more and show your soft side. There is no question Rand Paul is a fighter, unlike his father, who was often slow to respond to even vicious attacks. While there is a time for fighting, there is a time to show your humanity and be more likable. This would be a good opportunity to spend more time in the inner cities, the barrios and poorer areas of the country.
Also, Paul should put in some time visiting schools and charities and do a few photo ops with kids and the less fortunate.
Go bold on poverty. Paul is at his best when he’s breaking out of the conventional Republican, conservative and even libertarian thinking on issues. His most recent filibuster of provisions of the Patriot Act didn’t hurt him in the polls and his first filibuster on drone policy put him on the political map.
When he is at his boldest, he is at his political best. He should take this opportunity to lead on income mobility and lifting people out of poverty. He should propose universal school choice along the lines of what was recently enacted in Nevada. Paul should go further than any Republican has been traditionally willing to go and support a universal basic income as a replacement for the smorgasbord of welfare programs the federal government offers and even the minimum wage.
Go bold on gay rights. If Paul really wants to prove the Republican Party has changed, going bold on gay rights is a chance to prove it. Paul needs to make a statement that the Supreme Court decision on Friday recognizing gay marriage as legal in all 50 states is the law of the land and he will not support efforts to repeal it.
In addition, he should come out in support of giving gays the same protections against discrimination that other minorities have. However, he should make it very clear that he will support conscience protections for private vendors who refuse to participate in gay weddings.
Go bold on foreign policy. Now is an opportunity for Paul to outline an alternative foreign policy viewpoint to the one held by both political parties. He needs to give a speech about when the U.S. will go to war, what vision he has for the military and how he plans to project American power. He has to thread the needle because being a Marco Rubio clone won’t help, but at the same time he has to give some assurance to the country that he will keep it safe.
Stop trying to appeal to the far right. When Paul tries to go after the far right vote, it never works out well. According to the most recent polling data, Paul’s position as one of the chief spokesmen against fast-track authority for President Obama on the TPP hurt him. He failed to distinguish himself from the rest of the field, who oppose it, and he alienated his libertarian base, which is unapologetically pro free trade.
On issue after issue, from vaccines to gay marriage, when Paul goes after the Alex Jones vote, it backfires badly. The far right has several candidates in this race going for their vote. Rand Paul does not need to join them in the sewer. He needs to be the bold, transformational figure that reform-minded Republicans, conservatives and libertarians have grown to like.
But in order to do that Paul must be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom of both conservatives and libertarians alike. Even if it does not result in political victory, Paul should do it anyway to force a real debate on issues the Republican Party would rather ignore.