Rand Paul Stands Up For Emergency Contraception

 has details:

While on a college tour in South Carolina [last] week, a red-headed woman in a baseball cap asked Paul if drugs that prevent conception, like Plan B, should be legal. Paul, leaning gracelessly on the side of the podium, stated matter-of-factly: “I’m not opposed to birth control.” He paused and shrugged. “That’s basically what Plan B is. Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening. I’m not opposed to that, or don’t think there should be any laws opposing that.”

As reported by The Daily Beast, Paul’s statement resulted in the prominent social conservative Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, attacking him on Twitter — which left Team Paul “fuming.”

Suderman puts Paul’s remarks in context:

The GOP probably won’t come out as the party of gay rights and the pill in time for the 2016 election, but those issues won’t be front and center. If anything, judging by the Summit, most Republican politicians are likely to try to avoid talking about gay marriage whenever possible. And when it comes to contraception, many will emphasize support for greater access by making it available over-the-counter.

The causes behind the Republican party’s shift are complex—changing social norms, the shifting demographics of the electorate, and the decline of religiosity in American life are all factors. But rather than trace the reasons for the transformation, I think it’s worth dwelling briefly on how rapid and drastic the shift on these issues, especially gay marriage, has been, and what that shift suggests about the stability of internal power dynamics in political parties.

But Ryan Lizza has a hard time squaring Paul’s comments with his support of the Life at Conception Act:

In my recent Profile of Senator Rand Paul, Dr. John Downing, the Senator’s friend and former medical partner, expressed his worries about Paul’s sponsorship of the Life at Conception Act, also known as the personhood law. The bill would ban abortion and grant the unborn all the legal protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, beginning at “the moment of fertilization.” To Downing, who is an ardent Paul supporter, this seemed like political madness. Downing said that he believed Paul’s personhood law would make some common forms of birth control illegal, and thus doom Paul’s Presidential hopes. “He’s going to lose half or more of women immediately once they find out what that would do to birth control,” Downing told me. …

As with so many other issues—the Middle East, civil rights—Paul has placed himself in a political vise on the question of when life begins. His views on personhood will be savaged by Democrats if he runs for President; and his casual endorsement of Plan B has antagonized leading social conservatives who were already highly skeptical of his pro-life bona fides.

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)