Rand Paul’s 2016 Road Trip: 5 States, 5 Things He Has to Prove
What to expect from the Kentucky Republican's presidential campaign kickoff.
— -- If Sen. Rand Paul announces Tuesday, as expected, that he is running for president, the Kentucky Republican quickly will hit the ground running -- kicking his campaign into high gear with a five-day, multi-state “Stand with Rand” tour across the U.S., with stops in many key battleground states, each meant to highlight a distinct aspect of Paul’s message.
Here's a look at where he's going and what he has to prove in each place:
The one-term Kentucky senator will be in friendly territory Tuesday as he seeks to shore up early support on his home turf. Paul is expected to announce a run for the presidency Tuesday in front of a crowd of approximately 1,000 energized supporters at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville.
Because Paul's strongest support can be expected in his home state, it is a must-pass test for him. In what promises to be a crowded and competitive Republican primary, Paul is relying on the full backing of his home state. To fall short in Kentucky would spell trouble for Paul’s hopes beyond the state's borders.
Wednesday: New Hampshire
From Kentucky, Paul will quickly move on to New Hampshire, making his first visit to the Granite State as a declared candidate on Wednesday.
In a state that proudly touts its motto, “Live Free or Die,” Paul will rally early supporters at the historic town hall in the town of Milford, New Hampshire. The venue choice will serve to compliment Paul’s message to reign in the federal government and give increased autonomy to state and local governments.
Paul also stands to prove that he can build a network of supporters in the second-in-the-nation state in presidential primary process. It will be an important test for Paul and one that he has been preparing for prior to his announcement, making multiple trips to New Hampshire in previous months.
Thursday: South Carolina
From New Hampshire, Paul will turn on some southern charm and likely tout his tea party credentials as he moves to South Carolina on Thursday.
Paul will host an event in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, using a World War II-era Navy aircraft carrier as the backdrop for his rally. Though the specifics of Paul’s South Carolina rally have yet to be unveiled, the venue choice suggests that Paul’s message is likely to focus on foreign policy.
Paul, who has at times struggled to explain his foreign policy positions and last year penned an Op-Ed article in Time magazine to clarify that he is “not an isolationist,” has previously expressed measured restraint in the use of military force -- perhaps most notably with his outspoken opposition to the United States’ policy on the use of military drones that included a 13-hour filibuster in 2013. But Paul has also sounded the alarm on ISIS and called for the terrorist organization’s complete annihilation.
Paul’s ability to clearly articulate his foreign policy philosophy -- and do so in a way that resonates with the general Republican electorate -- will be an important test for Paul in seeking the nomination.
Paul has already established a campaign headquarters in Iowa, the state that kicks off the primary season with the the first-in-the-nation caucuses. And now, he has chosen Friday at the University of Iowa for his first official campaign rally in the Hawkeye State.
It’s hard to underestimate the significance of Iowa, with its unique ability to make or break candidates. Paul enters the state with an uphill challenge on two fronts -- the first being Paul’s corn-y problem. As an opponent of government intervention in the marketplace, Paul is not a fan of a federal measure popular in the state known as the Renewable Fuel Standard. The measure requires a certain percentage of corn yields be used in ethanol production and enjoys easy support in the country’s largest corn-producing state.
But Paul may have found a creative way to get himself out of the corn maze in which he finds himself with a recent piece of legislation he’s teamed up on with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. The bill, known as the "Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act,” has the support of industry leaders who say it would cut cumbersome regulations unpopular among corn farmers.
Secondly, Paul has the task of distinguishing himself from his father, the three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul. In elections past, there were fissures between Paul loyalists in the state, the so-called liberty movement, and the state’s establishment GOP.
Moving on to Nevada on Saturday, Paul may feel safer to fully embrace his family name in this early caucus state, because his father performed well there in 2012.
Paul’s father won a majority of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. And though that support ultimately could not eclipse the fact that Mitt Romney had won the state’s caucus, the state represents an opportunity for Paul to grow and energize potential supporters.
Paul’s Saturday rally at the Sierra Vista Community Center, which is geared toward seniors, will mark the conclusion of Paul’s marathon campaign kickoff.