For Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, and even Carly Fiorina, 2016 represents the last time they’ll really have a shot at the White House. For Rand Paul, this is just the beginning of his career in the world of national politics and it’s important for him to drop out now before he ruins his own future.
If the Republicans lose in 2016, Paul will be called on to try again in 2020. If they win, he will still be young enough to run in 2024. More importantly, he’ll be perfectly primed after a valid career in the Senate and possibly a cabinet position to bolster his resume.
Rand Paul is not his father. While Libertarians around the country feel bad that their patriarch never had a strong chance of winning the GOP nomination, let alone the Presidency, his son is on a different and more sustainable course. The younger Paul has much of the elder’s passion but is grounded in pragmatism that will be useful if we’re able to reach a point of relative peace and safety in this country.
2016 wasn’t designed for Rand Paul. It presented two important obstacles that made it nearly impossible for him to consolidate the conservative wings of Libertarians and Republicans: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Whether you like either candidate or not, they have been positioned as the conservative voice in a time where non-intervention simply isn’t very popular. Terrorists are hidden in the psyches of many Americans and in the shadows around the world. While Paul was correct that meddling in the Middle East has caused more damage than good, it’s not popular to believe that allowing the Islamic State to run its course is a good move.
Fiscally, he’s probably the right candidate for the job today but again he’s being blocked by Cruz and Trump who are being viewed as more viable candidates for solving our spending woes.
Rand Paul has a future in national politics and possibly has a future in the White House. It just isn’t today.
The longer he stays in the race, the more likely it is that he’ll make more enemies and miss future opportunities. More importantly, he is not likely to go anywhere but down at this point, which means that his future supporters will look at his current performance and grimace.
Exiting now benefits him. It gives him the ability to call it a mulligan as long as he isn’t embarrassed in the early caucuses and primaries. If he’s still running by Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, or March 1st Super Tuesday, he’ll only be focusing the attention on his inability to galvanize the vote. Pulling out early will give him a platform to say that this simply wasn’t his time and that he’s going to go to work in the Senate to make things better. His voting record in the Senate is better than any Senator running for the Presidency in years and he can leverage this to his advantage, particularly if he’s running in 2024.
A lot of people love Rand Paul, but not enough this time around. Making the hard decision now will make it easier for him to pop back in when America’s ready for him.