The Hawkish Campaign Against Paul Begins
A hawkish non-profit group is launching a new attack ad to coincide with Rand Paul’s presidential announcement today:
The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a 501(c)(4) group led by veteran Republican operative Rick Reed, will go live with its campaign against Paul on Tuesday, while the senator is in Louisville, Kentucky, announcing his presidential candidacy. The group will begin airing ads on broadcast TV, cable and the Web in several early primary states accusing Paul of being weak on Iran and tying him to the Barack Obama administration’s Iran policy, which polls show is deeply unpopular among Republican voters.
While reports have emphasized Reed’s role in the attacks on Kerry during the 2004 election, the group has its roots in pro-McCain advocacy from the 2008 election cycle and Reed has been a longtime McCain supporter. It’s hardly surprising that a group originally aligned so closely with McCain would make a point of attacking Paul at the formal start of his presidential campaign, but the attack could have the unintended effect of reminding some disillusioned would-be Paul supporters what they used to like about the senator. Given a choice between McCain’s reckless and aggressive approach to foreign policy and almost anyone else’s, there are many Republican voters that will be only too glad to back the alternative.
The ad itself is run-of-the-mill fear-mongering complete with an image of a nuclear explosion at the end. Paul is specifically attacked for not supporting new Iran sanctions during the negotiations, but the main purpose of the ad is to identify Paul with Obama. Those attacks should be easy enough to answer, but after Paul’s odd maneuvers on Iran over the last few months he is bound to have fewer defenders than he once did. If Paul and his advisers could manage to offer something more than a boilerplate statement about the framework agreement, they might even be able to use this early and intense hawkish hostility to their advantage. However, so far their response to last week’s framework agreement has been remarkably non-committal and underwhelming. That will not earn any reprieve from the hard-liners that are intent on Paul’s defeat, and it isn’t going to rally any supporters.
The focused attacks on Paul confirm that there was never any use in trying to placate and win over hard-liners. They were always going to come after Paul because of what they think he represents, so there was no point in trying to curry favor with this faction the party. All that this did was muddle Paul’s foreign policy message, alienate likely supporters, and undercut the rationale for Paul’s candidacy. Today’s announcement speech is an opportunity for Paul to try to repair some of this damage, but then it wouldn’t surprise me if foreign policy ends up being a small part of what Paul will be talking about today.