Political analyst Dick Morris thinks Rand Paul doesn’t have what it takes to win in 2016. Morris points out three ideological layers of conservative voter values, and he thinks Rand Paul wins in only one of those:
The Republican Party is a three-layer cake consisting of economic libertarians, evangelical believers and national security advocates. Huckabee in 2008 showed you cannot win only as an evangelical. He is showing signs of having learned that lesson in his current bid. McCain showed the limitations of a focus on national security. Now Paul is about to demonstrate that economic libertarians cannot win without the other two facets of the party behind them.
Analysts did this to Ron Paul as well. They also did it to Barry Goldwater. But I think analysts overlook an extremely important factor in “electability”—the support of the Republican Party itself, not just Republican voters.
Morris and others like to act like elections are won by the candidate who best fits the desires of the electorate. That’s not true. The candidate who the electorate thinks is the best fit will win. That’s two entirely different things. And convincing the electorate that a candidate is the best fit is the Party’s job.
Which means that the GOP is not going to back a candidate unless it is in their interest. Think about that. The GOP is not looking for the candidate who could garner the most popular support. They are looking for the intersection between a winsome candidate and a party player.
That, and only that, is why Ron Paul did not run on the Republican ticket in 2012. Despite what all the taste-making analysts had to say, Ron Paul could have beaten Obama in 2012. He wasn’t given the chance. In fact, the GOP skewed things to make sure Ron Paul didn’t get the nomination. Then they changed the rules to make sure they wouldn’t have to work so hard in the future to get their way.
So it really doesn’t matter if Rand Paul could win. It’s more a question of who could win plus who the GOP wants to win. The right candidate is the best compromise between those two demands. And, as we’ve seen, the GOP is very willing to sacrifice in the winsome category in order to nominate someone they think will be firmly in their control. (Mitt Romney anyone?)
Rand Paul will be up against a similar problem, though he is more of a party player than his father. So it doesn’t matter if he could win a general election. The real question is, will the GOP let him try?