Rand Paul isn’t running for President in 2020, and that’s sad news for libertarians in this cycle, as we are left with longshot primaries by Bill Weld and Tulsi Gabbard and a wide open Libertarian Party race including John McAfee and Vermin Supreme. For Paul, though, it’s for the best, because he’s already playing his cards perfectly for 2024.
After the 2022 elections, Rand Paul will end his second term as a U.S. senator. In 2024, he will be the Republican nominee for the presidency. Whether he’s done so on purpose or not, the junior senator from Kentucky is in a prime position to take control of the Republican Party post-Trump, regardless of what happens to the commander-in-chief. Here’s how.
Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020, thanks in part to some campaigning from Rand.
Rand continues the “Trump whispering” that has pushed the President in the right direction on cannabis, war, and criminal justice reform, despite the party establishment’s best wishes.
Then, in 2022, Rand’s term expires. Rand doesn’t run for re-election. A supporter of term limits, Rand has said before that he will limit himself to two terms. A job opens up in the administration, possibly the Secretary of State portfolio. Then, when the competitive 2024 primary opens up, Rand has the name recognition, the experience, and the support of the head of the party and the free world.
Now, getting Trump’s sole support is not a sure thing. Ted Cruz is likely to run again. Mike Pence could throw his hat in the ring. And Nikki Haley has her share of supporters in the party.
But Trump and Haley have bumped heads, and Trump and Pence were a political marriage. Cruz would compete for it, and it will depend on how the next two years go. But if Rand can stay on the right side of the President long enough to get a major cabinet position, he’s going to walk into the primary with serious momentum, which he lacked severely in 2016.
Donald Trump loses in 2020, to any of the far-left Democrats.
Trump will lose the support of his party (most of whom, I think, would be willing to drop him now if it weren’t electoral suicide), and suddenly distance from the then-former president holds weight.
Rand is able to point to the instances where he disagreed not only with the Donald, but the rest of the party too. Rand’s appeal to young people on issues like cannabis and criminal justice, plus his ready base of activists, help push him above the field.
In addition, Rand can also get a jumpstart on the field.
His 2022 exit from the Senate frees him up to tour the country, specifically Iowa and New Hampshire, speaking against the socialism that the Democrat in the White House would bring us.
Early starts aren’t always the best idea, as Scott Walker proved in 2016, but they sure are popular, as Democrats are proving now.
I think Rand will have to get his name in the conversation early, or he could be forgotten by anyone not already a supporter of his. This scenario is obviously not as favorable as the first, but Rand would still walk in with a known name with grassroots support, and those two years to campaign could be huge.
Donald Trump wins re-election in 2020, and the economy tanks.
Suddenly, the primary field shrinks. Nobody wants to be the sacrificial lamb to lose to whoever the Democrats trot out.
However, Rand would be the best candidate to keep the presidency.
If he could articulate the gritty details like Federal Reserve interest rates to the average voter, and make his proposals sound radically different from the system that fails us, he just might have a chance.
This scenario would make it easiest for Rand to win the nomination, but toughest to win the White House. But even that wouldn’t be impossible.
Obviously this is a long way off. But I think Rand is positioned really well. If he’s doing this intentionally, the nomination is his to lose. If he’s doing it incidentally, he’s still got a really good chance. So enjoy the theatrics of a Democratic primary this year, because the next one is going to be very stressful.