Rand Paul’s visit fuels speculation


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It’s the three-day political sweep Iowans have seen before.

This week, Rand Paul will return to the state’s presidential-trial grounds, visiting eight communities as one of a handful of national GOP leaders who have been viewed as front-runners for the 2016 presidential cycle.

From the Iowa Great Lakes resort town of Okoboji to the University of Iowa, Paul will work to garner favorability, a person who will join  another campaign this week told The Daily Iowan on Sunday.

In December 2011, Paul’s father, then-Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, traversed through nine cities as a part of a three-day circuit through much of central and eastern Iowa. He later went on to lose by a narrow 3 percent margin in the 2012 Iowa caucuses to former Sen. Rick Santorum.

With fewer than 95 days until the 2014 mid-term election, the political parades expected to surge in Iowa leading up to 2016 have those deemed interested setting their paths to Pennsylvania Avenue.

However, a pair of political analysts say the younger Paul is certainly testing the presidential waters that remain murky with no decisive front-runner.

Experts say it will take a balancing act composed of getting his face in front of the state’s young voters and speaking on foreign-policy issues that helped catapult his father’s two-time run into the presidential spotlight, while also reaching out to the highly conservative older voters who tend to vote in midterm elections.

But one thing is clear: He’s not his father.

The younger Paul’s reintroduction to the political cycle comes down in part to timing, said Timothy Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

“He was basically waiting to seeing what his father did,” Hagle said. “He undoubtedly knows a lot of people in Iowa already because of his father, and that gives him a head start.”

Despite that head start, the 51-year-old’s Achilles heel could arise in the one prominent issue that his father spearheaded: foreign policy.

“He’s taking a more nuanced approach to foreign policy because his father turned off many Republicans because of that,” Hagle said, noting that international tension in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip have pushed the issue to the front and center.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks campaign manager Matt Sauvage said the decision to pair the Kentucky senator with the 2nd District GOP candidate came as a result of the ophthalmologists’ meeting during the 2014 Iowa GOP state convention in Des Moines.

The noon appearance on Tuesday at the University Club, 1360 Melrose Ave., is expected to draw 75 people.

The visit to Iowa City, which has the area’s major medical centers, was chosen as an outlet to host the pair because both seek to snag college voters and they clamor for nationwide health-care change, Sauvage said.

If voters cling to the excitement that Ron Paul promised Iowans three years ago, they might be more likely to look into Rand Paul’s candidacy over another Republican’s, said Christopher Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa.

Paul could benefit from his well-known last name if he can appeal to older Iowans who tend to have the highest turnouts at the Ames Straw Poll in 2015 and the Iowa caucuses in 2016, Larimer said.

Citing national public opinion polls that show large swaths of the American public are frustrated with foreign policy, Larimer said he expects Paul to speak on the level of intervention needed to close out foreign conflicts cleanly, in addition to the divisive Affordable Care Act.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, played down the reasoning of Paul’s return to the state as a platform to campaign for others and not himself.

“Iowa’s a lovely place, but if you’re a senator from another state, you’re most likely coming there because you are running for president or at least testing the waters,” Sabato said. “If Rand Paul isn’t running for the White House, he deserves an Oscar for best actor.”

Steve Grubbs, one of Paul’s strategists, told the DI on Sunday that the senator’s primarily goal of the trip will be to work for state Republican candidates. He will also listen to job creators in the state and see what advice he can take back to the Senate.

“It’s no secret that he is considering a presidential run; he’ll make that decision later and in advance of that, and he’s bringing people like me on board should he decide to pull the trigger and run for president,” Grubbs said.

To Sabato, Paul stands out from the GOP pack because he has a distinctive message that questions U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, appears to have a more libertarian perspective on at least a few issues, and seems determined to broaden the too-narrow GOP coalition through outreach to minorities and the young.

“But it’s far from certain that the Republican base will buy what he’s selling,” Sabato said.

Rand Paul to visit Iowa City

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will visit Iowa City on Tuesday, August 5 to headline a fundraiser for the Mariannette Miller-Meeks campaign.

• The event will take place at noon-1:30 p.m. at the University Club, 1360 Melrose Ave.

• Ticket prices: $25 for UI students; $60 for guest level; $100 for friend level; $500-$1,000 for host-committee level

• Approximately 75 people are expected to attend the event.

Source: Mariannette Miller-Meeks campaign manager Matt Sauvage

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