Peter Suderman: 5 things to know about Rand Paul

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. announces the start of his presidential campaign, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday with a combative message against both Washington and his fellow Republicans, declaring that “we have come to take our country back.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., officially announced that he’s running for president Tuesday.


His first stop was a big speech at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville today, where he was expected to talk up his campaign themes and give us more of a sense of what to expect from his run.

In the meantime, here are five things to know about the Kentucky Senator’s run for president:

1. Rand Paul’s campaign strategy is built around an appeal to people who don’t traditionally vote Republican. Paul’s pre-announcement video, which declared that “on April 7, a different kind of Republican will take on Washington,” hints at this, and reports on his campaign message and tactics make it even more explicit. “He intends to focus heavily on young voters and minority outreach,” The Hill reports, “and will make the pitch to Republican primary voters that his efforts to expand the party make him the candidate with the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election.”

It’s an expansion of the message that Paul has been delivering to the GOP for a while now, in various forms — that for Republicans to succeed in the future, they must “evolve, adapt, or die” in order to continue to be relevant and successful as a political party.

Notably, this is pitch to non-traditional GOP voters is also a pitch to traditional GOP voters. He’s not just saying he’s the candidate for outsiders; he’s saying that he’s also the candidate for current insiders who want to expand the party’s reach.

2. Rand Paul will spend the rest of the week holding events in important primary states. Following today’s kickoff event in Louisville, Paul will move on to a town hall in New Hampshire — the “Live Free or Die” state — which will give him an opportunity to tout his limited government vision. After that, ABC News reports, he’ll appear in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, in front of a World War II aircraft, likely in order to talk about military spending and foreign policy. The next day, he’ll head to Iowa, which, as the first primary state, looms large in the primary process, and then on Saturday he’ll finish the tour with a stop in Nevada, a state that, as ABC notes, his father Ron Paul performed well in during a 2012 presidential run.

3. Republican hawks are already spending big bucks to keep Rand Paul from winning the nomination. A group of hawkish conservatives has already put together a million-dollar-plus ad buy attacking the Kentucky senator in key primary states. Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin reports that “the group will begin airing ads on broadcast TV, cable and the Web in several early primary states accusing Paul of being weak on Iran and tying him to the Barack Obama administration’s Iran policy, which polls show is deeply unpopular among Republican voters.” The campaign, run through a non-profit dubbed The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, is being run by Rick Reed, a veteran GOP political consultant who, as Rogin notes, also designed the Swiftboat Veterans for the Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004.

4. Rand Paul’s campaign is taking donations in Bitcoin. According to The Washington Post, Paul is the first GOP presidential candidate to take any virtual currency this cycle. It’s not just an effort to make it easier to donate either. It fits in with Paul’s different-kind-of-Republican message. As the Post notes, “there’s a longer-term strategic play, here, one that speaks to Paul’s appeal among tech-focused libertarians in Silicon Valley and young people who are eager early adopters of new services.” It’s fitting, because in some sense, Paul is positioning himself as a new service — a disruptive startup — within the Republican Party specifically, and, more broadly, in American politics.

5. Rand Paul has a campaign store that sells T-shirts, bumper stickers, and more. The political campaign store has been done before, of course, but maybe never this well. The Rand Paul Store’s collection of nifty, often clever branded merchandise reminds me a little bit of the online nerd-accessory shop ThinkGeek.

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