Why Rand Paul should skip the 2016 presidential race

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Rand Paul continues to impress in the senate. During Wednesday’s hearings, he pressed Secretary Clinton harder than any of his colleagues over her failure of leadership regarding Benghazi. (Last month, I also praised his proposed FISA amendment.)

Predictably, Paul’s confrontation with Clinton fueled speculation about 2016. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake went so far as to write that Paul, “is quickly establishing himself as the conservative option in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.”

There is little doubt that Sen. Paul could be formidable in a GOP primary. He would likely tap into his father’s political network, and also expand his base by attracting more mainstream Republicans than his father ever could.

But he can’t win a general election — and he shouldn’t try.

If you thought the 2012 stakes were high, the 2016 stakes are even higher. It’s going to get ugly. Conservatives who witnessed how Mitt Romney was demonized (in a pretty similar manner as I predicted) must now realize that it is the goal of liberals to cast Republicans as crazy, evil, racists.

Fair or not, Paul would be easily cast in that negative light.

Some of it is his fault. His comments to Rachel Maddow about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 will be used against him. This, of course, would only confirm the negative narrative his liberal opponents (and their friends in the media) wish to perpetuate. (Note: I get that Rand Paul hates racism — and that his position is a nuanced one. But that won’t matter in our sound bite media culture.)

Some of it’s not his fault. It’s not fair to blame him for the sins of his father, but that won’t stop the media or Paul’s political opponents. It might not be fair for Rep. Ron Paul’s racist newsletters to impact his son’s presidential ambitions — but you know they will.

All of this becomes even more important if Hillary is the Democratic nominee. If that’s the case, you can expect the “war on women” meme to come back in a big way. Already, Mediate is headlining today’s spat as a sort of domestic dispute — “Rand Paul Brutalizes Hillary Clinton.”

The 2016 elections are a long way off, but it’s not too early to ask this question: Is Rand Paul really the best messenger for 21st century conservatism — in this political environment — with so much at stake?

Matt K. Lewis