In a crowded presidential field, it is always a good thing to distinguish oneself. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has certainly done that in recent weeks and it has paid off.
In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Senator Paul has moved up to the top of GOP contenders – along with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – earning 11 percent support among registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
Partly, Rand is taking advantage of the fact that Jeb Bush has fallen out of favor with right-leaning voters: the former governor of Florida dropped over half of his support since the last time the poll was run, from 21 percent to 10 percent.
But Senator Paul also made strides with Republicans and independents who dissent from the GOP establishment’s security state club by blocking votes Sunday night to continue three surveillance provisions in the Patriot Act, including the National Security Agency’s bulk records collection program.
Combined with Paul’s placing of the responsibility for the existence and strength of ISIS at the feet of those Republican hawks who gave out arms in Middle East indiscriminately, his actions on the Patriot Act will not win him any friends among the establishment.
(Paul later clarified that no one but the terrorists are responsible for their own actions, but that the bad arms policy of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and certain members of the Republicans made the situation worse.)
Witness the attempt to change the Nevada presidential caucus to a primary election. It failed – though it was backed by the Republican National Committee, no less – and that’s good news for Paul’s presidential prospects.
Nevada, with its strong libertarian streak, was expected to be favorable to Paul to begin with. But caucuses also favor passionate, organized supporters of the sort who brought Rand’s father Ron such success in the 2012 Iowa Caucus.
This was certainly understood by the Republican establishment who sought the measure to make the change. Its failure is a victory in its own right for Senator Paul – his third in a row in the past few days.
Paul’s success in forestalling a renewal of the Patriot Act provisions, his new lead in the polls and the failure to change the Nevada presidential caucus to a primary puts the momentum squarely behind him.