Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rand Paul Hints At 2016

Senator Rand Paul offered just a hint, but the 2016 buzz was in the air at a Republican breakfast this morning in North Liberty.

"You want people who represent what you stand for," said the Kentucky Senator, "but also can talk to people who don't understand yet." The "here I am" went unspoken.

"Deb (county GOP chair Thornton) said I can speak as long as I want," Paul began, "and I can speak quite a long time," alluding to the 13 hour filibuster he gave in March against drone strikes. He managed to keep the talk to about 45 minutes including a few audience questions.

Senator Paul, son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a 2008 and 2012 presidential candidate, seemed more linear than his father, with fewer tangents into gold standard types of issues. The senator focused on foreign aid and tax policy in a very casual speech, wearing jeans and boots and leaning against the side of the podium.

"We should not give one penny more to nations that are burning our flag," he said to applause from the crowd of about 100. "It's pitiful to pay people to be our friends." However, Paul emphasized US-Israeli friendship, an issue he's been criticized in the past.

On tax policy, Paul favors a 17% flat income tax rate.  "We should not be for revenue neutral tax reform, we should be for cutting taxes," offering praise for Calvin Coolidge's policies. "It is not inherently unfair" for millionaires and their secretaries to pay the same percentage rates.

However, Paul did offer some criticism or large corporations, particularly the auto bailout, arguing that big business shouldn't get more help than small business.

"I may not agree with everything (Paul) says," said county supervisor John Etheredge in an introductory speech, " but he has some great core principles. When you run as a Republican there are some core principles associated with that." Those principles weren't elaborated much in his speech but seemed tacitly understood by the crowd; Etheredge did note as he began that he'd been shooting assault rifles with some military friends last night.

Etheredge, a local GOP hero after breaking the Democratic Party's 50 year monopoly on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in a March special election win, was the only local elected official on hand. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann and Sen. Sandy Greiner had personal commitments. The event, piggybacked on last night's state party Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids, was put together on relatively short notice.

Senator Paul working the crowd before the speech.

The four audience questions focused on marriage, taxes, Benghazi, and Audit The Fed (a signature issue of Paul's father).

"I believe in traditional marriage," said Paul, who said the issue should be left to the states. But he cautioned the questioner, who by implication seemed to be against marriage equality, "if you leave it to a national referendum you're probably going to lose."

"It's troubling to me that when they asked for help" in Benghazi, "somewhere up the chain they said no,"Paul said of the GOP's latest bugaboo issue.

Bob Anderson, state central committee member and immediate past chair of the county party, hinted at the divisions between old guard mainline Republicans (like himself) and the "liberty" faction that supported Paul's father in 2012 and took over much of the state party machinery. "You set a good example for unity," he told the senator, who met with his primary rival for breakfast immediately after his 2010 nomination.

A mix of "regulars" and "Liberty" folks were present this morning. I looked like the only Democratic mole, but I spotted Steve Sherman, who ran against Sally Stutsman for the state house last fall, and Christopher Peters, who challenged Bob Dvorsky as a Libertarian in 2010.

In general, the local activists seemed ready for the 2016 cycle to begin. "A lot of people ask, does it ever end?" said party activist Jason Glass of the long pre-caucus season. "But why does it have to?"

In strictly local stuff, county chair Thornton claimed some credit for Tuesday's defeat of the justice center. "In two votes in a row we've defeated the cathedral, Cadillac jail," she said of the issue. Republicans donated to the NO campaign and the Democratic Party endorsed yes, but activists from both parties were involved in both campaigns.

The Republican-led petition drive for a special election on a districting system for the Board of Supervisors went unmentioned, either from the podium or in any chatter I heard, and no petitions were seen. Has this issue slipped off the priority list?

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