He’s shedding the traditional Republican image by cracking jokes about smoking pot, by not making a political fuss over gay marriage (even though he doesn’t support it), and even (gasp) going without a tie. Sen. Rand Paul is hitting issues like privacy rights and national security in a way that’s intriguing young voters and even attracting voters who swing left. He may just be the right guy for appealing to non-traditional Republican voters (especially that hard to get minority vote) and adding some much needed variety to the ‘old white guy’ Republican Party. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a ‘youthful-looking old white guy’!)
“…Paul’s success or failure could have big implications for a party that’s been watching young, urban and minority voters flock to the Democratic Party with no apparent counterstrategy. If he can make a dent in that Democratic coalition by using his libertarianism to woo young voters and others who don’t traditionally fall in the GOP camp, Paul could help his party forge a path back to the White House.” (Politico)
According to Katie Glueck of Politico, Paul has the potential to reach and win a broader audience than his father, Ron Paul. A former Ron Paul aide, A.J. Spiker, is optimistic that Paul will steal a play from Obama and easily get the youth vote on his side. It’s only a question of whether or not students and young voters will actually show up to vote.
“I think a bunch of young people who are very liberal are angry about the NSA,” [said Peter Levine, an expert on the youth vote at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.] “But are they going to switch to a registered Republican candidate, or are they just going to stay out of politics?” (Politico)
Only time will tell if his efforts will resonate enough with young voters for them to take action. However, his conservative approach to “hot-button issues” like gun rights and abortion, plus his “deeply conservative economic vision”, could lose his edge with this group. Minorities weren’t too keen either when similar issues were “promoted by other Republicans in 2012”, according to Glueck.
“At the end of the day, he’s not liberal, he’s not progressive, and so it’ll be interesting to see,” said Trey Grayson, the director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, who ran unsuccessfully against Paul in the 2010 primary. “The other risk is, if he brings over folks on the left on national security issues, does he also then hurt [himself] on the right?” (Politico)
He’s representing “a new generation of Republicans”, according to Spiker, by trying to appeal to young voters and minorities, but it comes with a risk. Will one side desert him for being too Republican while the other side abandons him for not being Republican enough?
(Photo courtesy of City of Marietta, GA, via Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)
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