David Adams, a Kentucky tea-party activist and former campaign manager for Sen. Rand Paul, remembers a conference call from the 2010 Senate race when the conversation turned to talk of their favorite presidents. Some said George Washington, others Abraham Lincoln. Adams’s pick? “Rand Paul in 2016,” he recalled.
Three years later, Paul is acting like he’s already preparing a future presidential campaign, courting activists from early-primary states, smoothing out his positions on foreign policy, and delivering a high-profile national address, competing against a potential future GOP rival, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Last week the Kentucky Republican spoke at the Heritage Foundation, seeking to dispel the perception that he’s an isolationist and embracing George Kennan’s containment philosophy. The speech comes after a high-profile visit to Israel where Paul, a vocal opponent of foreign aid, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called the country America’s “most vital ally in the Middle East.” Accompanying Paul on the visit were evangelical activists from the early-primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, a sign the senator wanted to shore up his relationship with devout Protestants, a key part of the Republican voting bloc.