Who’s The GOP’s New Frontrunner?

Senators Call For Passage Of Military Justice Improvement Act

Beinart thinks it’s Rand Paul:

Despite his organizational strength, Ron Paul’s libertarian views capped his support in Iowa, preventing him from winning over more traditional conservatives. But in 2016, Rand Paul will be less of an ideological outlier than his father was in 2012. That’s partly because he has avoided some of his father’s edgier views. (He’s more supportive of foreign aid and sanctions against Iran, for instance.) And it’s partly because more Republicans now share his suspicion of the national-security state.

Last summer, more than 40 percent of House Republicans voted to curb NSA data collection. “Rand has a much broader appeal than his father,” Robinson says. Polls reflect that: A survey last December for the Des Moines Register found Paul with a lower unfavorability rating among Iowa Republicans than either Christie or Jeb Bush.

If Paul is, arguably, the early leader in Iowa, he may be the early frontrunner in New Hampshire as well. While Ron Paul placed third in Iowa in 2012, he placed second in New Hampshire, losing only to Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and a national frontrunner with a vast financial edge.

It’s way too soon to game this out, of course. But those who dismiss the chances of Paul are missing something, I think. Something fascinating is happening beneath the surface of the Republican-conservative debate. There is a revival – a clear, strong revival – of a conservatism perhaps best represented by The American Conservative of an authentically conservative worldview that is federalist, fiscally austerian, non-interventionist, and more skeptical of government’s national security claims. It’s always been there – a useful new primer on its history by Daniel McCarthy is here – but it is now much stronger vis-a-vis the Cold War liberalism and neoconservative orthodoxy that dominated the movement for so long. Someone will have to run under that banner in 2016, and it’s hard to see anyone tapping into the passionate activist support for it more effectively than Paul.

The Pauls are natural insurgents. And the GOP remains roiled by populist currents. That doesn’t mean Paul will win. It does mean he matters.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty.)