Can Rand Paul Thread The Needle?

Sen. Rand Paul Delivers Immigration Address Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce Conference

Robert Draper profiles the junior Senator from Kentucky:

“The party can’t become the opposite of what it is,” he told me. “If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, ‘You know what, guys, we’ve been wrong, and we’re gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,’ they’re either gonna stay home or — I mean, many of these people joined the Republican Party because of these social issues. So I don’t think we can completely flip. But can we become, to use the overused term, a bigger tent? I think we can and can agree to disagree on a lot of these issues. I think the party will evolve. It’ll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.”

In effect, Paul was saying that the way for Republicans to win was to become more libertarian — though only up to a point. … Paul added: “Some people are purists, and I get grief all the time — all these libertarian websites hating on me because I’m not as pure as my dad. And I’m putting restrictions on foreign aid instead of eliminating foreign aid altogether. And I’m like: ‘Look, guys, I’m having trouble putting these restrictions on, much less eliminating them! So give me a break!’ ”

Brownstein instead focuses on whether Rand can make inroads with black voters:

Paul has walked his talk by cosponsoring legislation with Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders; restore voting rights and access to welfare and food-stamp benefits for more former prisoners; and reform the juvenile-justice system. That agenda might not precipitate an immediate GOP electoral breakthrough with African Americans, but it’s serious enough to provide the party its best opportunity since Kemp to engage that community.

By scrambling the usual party alignment, Paul also has the potential to reshape the sentencing debate, much as Bill Clinton did with welfare reform. The question is whether Paul, as Clinton did, can convince his party to join him.

Meanwhile, Kilgore takes Paul to task for completing his 180 on aid to Israel:

I think Paul would be better advised to say he’s changed his mind on aid to Israel than to claim he’s been there all along. He wouldn’t be the first or last pol to have a sudden metamorphosis on an issue or two before launching a presidential bid. But he’s now getting a reputation for being slippery and defensive about his own past associations and statements; he regularly gets angry if anyone suggests he questioned the constitutionality of key elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which of course he did.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)