You’ve got to feel a little bit sorry for Sen. Rand Paul. He thought issues and outreach beyond the GOP base would matter in 2016, but so far in this race, neither of them have. His pathetic fight with Donald Trump could represent the beginning of the end of his campaign.
I don’t want to give Paul too much credit for caring about issues and outreach. His "issues" are a melange of self-contradiction, and he's a flip-flopper himself. He filibustered against drones, then said he had no problem droning someone who robbed a liquor store. He supported cutting aid to Israel before he was against it. He’s anti-intervention in the Middle East but opposed to the Iran deal.
And while he deserves credit for speaking to black audiences (a pitifully rare occurrence among Republicans) and for pushing criminal justice reform, he’s supported efforts to curtail voting rights and joked about the Baltimore riots after the police murdered Freddie Gray – “I’m glad my train didn’t stop!” he told Laura Ingraham. Then he blamed the uprising on “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society.”
His campaign for the African American vote is dead in the water.
So a desperate Paul decided he’d take on Donald Trump. Of course the three GOP candidates who took on Trump before him – Sen. Lindsey Graham and former governors Rick Perry and George Pataki – were so low in the polls they had nothing to lose. But their Trump attacks provided no gain. Paul was the only candidate at the debate Thursday night to attack Trump – yet he’s seen his poll numbers drop since then, while Trump’s either held steady or rose.
Undaunted, Paul released a commercial depicting Trump as a closet Democrat – and now they’re in a mud fight, bickering about golf. Paul’s father Ron apparently never taught him the old adage about fighting with a pig, though apparently Sen. John McCain knows it well.
The Washington Post’s Jose DelReal and Dave Weigel captured the juvenile back and forth here. Trump boasts about his status “as a world-class businessman, who built one of the great companies with some of the most iconic real estate assets in the world,” and says it required him to stay on good terms with Democrats and Republicans. Once again, he compares himself to former Democrat Ronald Reagan, who likewise “evolved.” He mocks Paul for his golf game, and closes:
Rand’s campaign is a total mess, and as a matter of fact, I didn’t know he had anybody left in his campaign to make commercials who are not currently under indictment!
That’s a reference to former Paul strategist Jesse Benton, who was just indicted for his alleged role in a payoff that got an Iowa GOP leader to shift his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in 2012. (Good times!)
Paul campaign strategist Doug Stafford shot back, explaining that Trump was no Reagan.
Ronald Reagan spent 20 years as a conservative before running for President, not twenty minutes [and set] the intellectual agenda for a generation of conservatives. Donald Trump couldn't set the intellectual conservative agenda of anything, not even the tiniest rooms, never mind a country. He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.
Then Stafford took a shot at Trump’s golf game.
While he appreciates Donald's golf skills, I will note that [the game] was on his home course that he plays often.
This will not end well for Paul, who has also been diminished by bickering with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (as well as female journalists). He looks increasingly thin-skinned and immature, but only Trump has made a successful brand out of those traits.
Sen. Ted Cruz has played it all much smarter, courting Trump and avoiding criticizing him – whether about his racism, his attacks on McCain or his sexist tirades against Fox’s Megyn Kelly. There never seemed to be much of a constituency for Paul’s patchwork of politics. The neocons were already gunning for him, but now Trump is doing their work for them.