Paul joins pres­i­den­tial ‘tea party tri­fecta’

Cruz, Ru­bio share mes­sage of lib­erty

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

When Sen. Rand Paul of­fi­cially an­nounced his bid Tues­day for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, he vowed to bring the tea party’s anti-Wash­ing­ton mes­sage to the 2016 con­test un­der a “ban­ner of lib­erty that clutches the Con­sti­tu­tion in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”

But with Sen. Ted Cruz al­ready in the race and Sen. Marco Ru­bio widely ex­pected to join, three first-term Repub­li­cans hailed as cham­pi­ons of the tea party likely will be com­pet­ing.

“We are kind of call­ing it the ‘tea party tri­fecta,’” said Tay­lor Bu­dowich, a spokesman for Tea Party Ex­press. “I think it re­ally speaks to the mat­u­ra­tion of the tea party move­ment and just how far we have come since 2010.”

Whether there is enough tea to go around as the Repub­li­can pri­mary battle heats up is a ma­jor ques­tion.

Speak­ing at the Galt House Ho­tel in Louisville, Mr. Paul sig­naled that he plans to stick with the mes­sage of limited gov­ern­ment that helped him win elec­tion to the Se­nate from Ken­tucky four years ago af­ter up­set­ting an estab­lish­ment-backed Repub­li­can for the party nom­i­na­tion.

“We have come to take our coun­try back from the spe­cial in­ter­ests that use Wash­ing­ton as their per­sonal piggy bank, the spe­cial in­ter­ests that are more con­cerned with their per­sonal wel­fare than the gen­eral wel­fare,” Mr. Paul said. “The Wash­ing­ton ma­chine that gob­bles up our free­doms and in­vades ev­ery nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.”

Af­ter a rough 2014 elec­tion sea­son in which most of their can­di­dates were shel­lacked in Repub­li­can pri­maries, tea party lead­ers said the trio in the pres­i­den­tial con­test shows their move­ment still has life.

“The fact that the first three Repub­li­can can­di­dates are go­ing to be can­di­dates that ran for the U.S. Se­nate and were elected to the U.S. Se­nate on tea party val­ues and now in­tend to run for the pres­i­dency on tea party val­ues shows the strength and ma­tu­rity of the move­ment,” said Jenny Beth Martin, pres­i­dent and co-founder of the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots.

Mr. Paul joins Mr. Cruz, elected to the Se­nate from Texas in 2012, as the first two ma­jor an­nounced Repub­li­can can­di­dates. Mr. Ru­bio, elected to the Se­nate from Florida in 2010, was sched­uled to an­nounce his cam­paign last week af­ter press time. All three tea party fa­vorites over­came bet­ter­funded, estab­lish­ment-backed can­di­dates en route to easy gen­eral elec­tion vic­to­ries.

Mark Meckler, founder and pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance, said “grass-roots ac­tivists are ex­cited by the prospect of hav­ing many lead­ing can­di­dates in the race who clearly speak to their val­ues and whose ac­tions match their words.”

He said the three will en­sure that tea party views are ma­jor parts of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­ver­sa­tions.

Some ac­tivists, though, warned that too many op­tions could di­lute tea party power and open the door for for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or an­other estab­lish­ment-backed mod­er­ate to emerge vic­to­ri­ous.

Ken Crow, a tea party ac­tivist in Iowa, said he has been try­ing to or­ga­nize a gath­er­ing of the move­ment’s lead­ers from across the coun­try in hopes of uni­fy­ing ac­tivists be­hind a sin­gle can­di­date.

Mr. Crow said he wants to avoid a re­peat of 2012, when for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, the estab­lish­ment fa­vorite, nearly won Iowa’s cau­cuses, fin­ish­ing 34 votes be­hind for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia de­spite the heavy con­ser­va­tive cast of the state’s elec­torate.

“What hap­pened in Iowa last time was this: You had groups that sup­ported Rick San­to­rum, Newt Gin­grich, Michele Bach­mann, and on down the line it went, and come cau­cus time that vote, the uber­con­ser­va­tive vote, did get split four or five dif­fer­ent ways,” he said.

Mr. Crow said Mr. Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Ru­bio all could have ap­peal in Iowa, mak­ing a tea party split a real pos­si­bil­ity.

“All th­ese can­di­dates are go­ing to di­lute this [vote], and what I am fear­ful of is that the win­ner com­ing out of this be­ing Jeb Bush,” he said.

He added, how­ever, that his per­sonal pre­dic­tion is that busi­ness­man Don­ald Trump wins the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion rid­ing his mes­sage and blunt style, which Mr. Crow said res­onates with tea par­ty­ers.

Mr. Paul is bank­ing on his lib­er­tar­ian brand of con­ser­vatism win­ning over vot­ers who have fled the Repub­li­can Party, such as the young and mi­nori­ties.

He plans to ex­pand upon the loyal band of fol­low­ers that his fa­ther, for­mer Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a lib­er­tar­ian icon, cul­ti­vated dur­ing his two-plus decades in Congress and dur­ing his three White House runs.

Mr. Paul has cham­pi­oned re­duced drug sen­tences for non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers and restor­ing vot­ing rights for some ex-cons. He sup­ports med­i­cal mar­i­juana, wants to curb the na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence sur­veil­lance pro­grams and calls for a more mod­est pres­ence for the U.S. abroad.

“This mes­sage of lib­erty is for all Amer­i­cans — Amer­i­cans from all walks of life. The mes­sage of lib­erty, op­por­tu­nity and jus­tice is for all Amer­i­cans, whether you wear a suit, a uni­form or over­alls, whether you’re white or black, rich or poor,” Mr. Paul said Tues­day.

The lat­est Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age of polls shows that Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz are run­ning neck and neck na­tion­ally be­hind Mr. Bush and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker. Mr. Ru­bio is run­ning in the mid­dle of the pack.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In an­nounc­ing his bid for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky vowed to bring the tea party’s anti-Wash­ing­ton mes­sage to the 2016 con­test un­der a “ban­ner of lib­erty that clutches the Con­sti­tu­tion in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”

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