Potential 2016 GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul has been building out a national political organization, as well as “courting Wall Street titans and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who donated to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, attending elite conclaves in Utah and elsewhere along with other GOP hopefuls.”
Those aren’t the sort of names one usually affiliated with the unrealized presidential aspirations of Paul the elder, suggesting that the updated version of the family brand may be serious about garnering enough mainstream Republican support to make a serious run at the nomination.
To date, no other 2016 GOP hopeful appears to have progressed so far in terms of building out a national organization.
The younger Paul’s nationwide organization, which counts more than 200 people, includes new supporters who have previously funded more traditional Republicans, along with longtime libertarian activists. Paul, of Kentucky, has been courting Wall Street titans and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who donated to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, attending elite conclaves in Utah and elsewhere along with other GOP hopefuls.
The team is said to be preparing to spend the rest of this year setting up meet ups and fund raisers, along with determining areas of both weak and strong support for a potential run.
“A national leadership team is an important step, and it’s a critical one for the movement going forward,” said Fritz Wenzel, Paul’s pollster. “Rand has tremendous momentum, and the formation of this team will guide him as he gets closer to a decision and [will] serve as a foundation for a campaign.”
Robert Costa at the Washington Post has taken a deep look at Paul’s fledgling organization, as well as how he is doing in polls and being viewed by more mainstream Republicans. Along with performing well in polls, Paul has clearly won over some converts among Republicans generally more skeptical when it came to his father, though it isn’t as yet clear how many of them may end up supporting him.
At the same time, he has already enlisted solid support from some key figures.
Paul’s national team plans to huddle once every quarter, with weekly calls between the meetings. Foreign policy advisers — such as Richard Burt, a former ambassador, and Lorne Craner, a former State Department official — are expected to be part of the chain of command.
Joe Lonsdale, a hedge fund manager, is also on board, as is Ken Garschina, a principal at Mason Capital Management in New York. So are brothers Donald and Phillip Huffines, Texas real estate developers; Atlanta investor Lane Moore; and Frayda Levy, a board member at conservative advocacy groups Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth.
From the state parties, outgoing Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker and former Nevada GOP chairman James Smack have signed on, and a handful of Republican officials are preparing to join once their terms expire, including Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.
Drew Ivers, a former Iowa GOP chairman and Paul supporter, said that Paul is “seriously building” a Hawkeye State network, but that Washington observers haven’t noticed much of the activity because it is mostly on social media. “In June 2007, Ron Paul’s name identification was zero,” Ivers said. “These days, 95 percent of Iowa Republicans know Rand Paul.”
While early and Paul has yet to commit to a run, it’s clear from the efforts he is undertaking at this time that it would be wrong to write him off as a serious challenger as we move closer to 2016.