Presidential Profile, Part IV: Sen. Rand Paul trailing poll numbers explained

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks on stage at the start of the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was set to be the heir-apparent to his father of the mantle of libertarianism in his party. In terms of polling numbers, this has not worked out.

Paul is an establishment conservative in every sense of the word. He is pro-life, anti-tax, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-affirmative action, pro-gun rights and a proponent of “trickle-down” economics.

On gun rights, Paul appeals to the Republican base with statements like: “We will not let the liberals tread on the second amendment.” On economics, Paul echoes the party line: cutting corporate taxes will create jobs for the poor.

Where he differs from his opponents is his staunch anti-government stance, which often coalesces with conservative thought. For example, in terms of the issues of environment and climate change, Paul does not believe the government should intervene. Sometimes, though, Paul’s Tea Party/Libertarian anti-government credo leads to foreign policy and intelligence beliefs that align more with Democrats.

Paul is a proponent of individual rights, and NSA surveillance is a direct affront to his beliefs. “I have fought for several years now to end the illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans,” Paul wrote on his website. “The callous use of general warrants and the disregard for the Bill of Rights must end. Forcing us to choose between our rights and our safety is a false choice and we are better than that as a nation and as a people.”

Paul has also made clear his stance against violent intervention abroad when it is not warranted. He did not support the Iraq war, and has been quoted as saying, “It is unacceptable not to hate war.”

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, convictions such as these have not been beneficial to Paul’s campaign. He has been hammered by Republican presidential nominees, such as Marco Rubio, who say now more than ever Americans need a robust intelligence system and, due to the threat of terror, cannot have an isolationist foreign policy.

Paul has taken to defending his foreign policy, which is apparent in a recent speech he made in Iowa, saying that he was not a traditional isolationist.

"Most isolationists sorta, like, want to build a wall around the country and not interact with the rest of the world. Trade is a big part of being part of the world and I'm for trading with the rest of the world. I'm for diplomatic engagement," Paul said.

In terms of education, Paul supports school choice and is against common core models. Paul has strongly warned against the allure of a completely free college education during his current campaign.

“If someone offers you something for free, treat it as if they’re offering you heroin and think about the repercussions of what is free and what is a drug, an addicting drug like heroin and the ramifications of that. There’s nothing free,” Paul said in an interview. “It just means somebody else is gonna pay for it, you don’t see them. So the plumber, the welder, the carpenter, the people who don’t go to college are being asked to pay for your education.”

Still, Paul believes that the cost to the student of going to college should be deductible. In his words: "Let’s let college students deduct the entire cost of their educations over their working careers. Let’s make college tuition entirely deductible."

While in the Senate in 2014, Paul set himself apart from other Republicans by laying out a racially aware criminal justice reform plan. The New Yorker writes that the plan hoped to “end mandatory minimum-sentencing laws, expunge nonviolent felonies from criminals’ records, reclassify some felonies as misdemeanors, and restore voting rights to citizens who had committed a nonviolent felony. Like Barack Obama, he vowed to free many people imprisoned for crack cocaine, and he announced a new proposal to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.”

According to a RealClearPolitics average of all major polls, Paul is currently polling in tenth place within the Republican Party at 2.8 percent, behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and John Kasich, respectively.


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.