Both Jeb Bush and Rand Paul are talking about broadening the appeal of the Republican Party as they move toward presidential candidacies. Both say Republicans must be able to compete with younger voters and people of all racial backgrounds. Both have talked about the failure of welfare-state programs to eliminate urban poverty. But they don’t always agree. Bush sticks with the aggressive foreign policy that came to be associated with his brother’s presidency, while Paul wants a less interventionist approach. Bush calls for “smarter, effective government” rather than smaller government, while Paul believes that smaller government would be smarter. Perhaps most notoriously, Bush strongly endorses the Common Core educational standards, building on George W. Bush’s policy of greater federal control of schooling.
Meanwhile, Paul promises to bring in new audiences by talking about foreign policy and civil liberties. As Robert Costa reported from an Iowa rally this weekend:
Turning to civil liberties, where he has quarreled with hawkish Republicans, Paul chastised the National Security Agency for its surveillance tactics. “It’s none of their damn business what you do on your phone,” he said.
“Got to love it,” said Joey Gallagher, 22, a community organizer with stud earrings, as he nursed a honey-pilsner beer. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”
But the rest of Paul’s nascent stump speech signaled that as much as he wants to target his father’s lingering network, he is eager to be more than a long-shot ideologue.
Paul cited two liberals, Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), during his Friday remarks and said he agrees with outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on curbing federal property seizures and softening sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders — all a nod to his efforts to cast himself as a viable national candidate who can build bipartisan relationships and expand his party’s political reach.
“Putting a kid in jail for 55 years for selling marijuana is obscene,” Paul said.
Alan Grayson and Eric Holder? That’s pushing the Republican comfort zone. And what was the reception?
“Just look at who’s here,” said David Fischer, a former Iowa GOP official, as he surveyed the crowd at Paul’s gathering Friday at a Des Moines winery. “He is actually bringing women, college students and people who are not white into the Republican Party.”
That’s his plan. It’s a real departure from the unsuccessful candidacies of old, hawkish John McCain and old, stuffy Mitt Romney. It just might create the kind of excitement that Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama once brought to presidential politics. The question is whether those new audiences will show up for Republican caucuses and primaries to join the small-government Republicans likely to be Paul’s base.