Donald Trump has officially reached a majority of delegates in the Republican Party presidential primary, meaning that a man with authoritarian tendencies is the presumptive GOP nominee. It did not always have to be this way. As recently as June 2014, libertarian-leaning U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was leading the Republican field.Paul staked his Presidential campaign on
the notion that he could expand the base of his father, former Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). This premise, however, was not viable from the start. It lead to the junior Senator’s disappointing fifth place finish inthe 2016 Iowa Caucus. To get an idea of how this occurred, let’s look at the data.
In 2012, Ron Paul performed well with young voters, the poor, moderates, independents, first time caucus goers, voters who said their biggest issue was the budget deficit, voters who want a true conservative, and voters who decided who to support over one month before the caucus. This provides an interesting window into the minds of Ron Paul voters. How, though, could Ron
Paul supporters be both moderate and want a true conservative? This is because Ron Paul’s support was not a homogeneous group of libertarians, as some incorrectly believe. Instead Ron Paul’s support was composed of many different factions: young liberals, poor non-politically involved individuals, and Tea Party conservatives.
By moderating his image, Rand Paul did not lose libertarians. Instead, he lost Ron Paul’s coalition of non-libertarians.
By being more socially conservative than his father, Rand lost many young voters, potentially to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has appealed to this voting group.
By working with the establishment, Rand lost the poor non-political individuals who want a candidate who isn’t politically correct. These voters would become the bedrock of Donald Trump’s populist campaign. Rand lost Tea Party support to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was perceived by Tea Party-ers to be more anti-establishment.
By attempting to appeal to establishment Republicans, Rand caused Ron’s coalition to disintegrate from beneath him. Young liberals didn’t want a social conservative. Low income populists didn’t want an insider. Tea Party-ers didn’t want a candidate who works
Rand’s moderate Presidential campaign ran counterclockwise to the campaign he successfully ran to get elected to the Senate in the first place. In his Senate primary, Paul did much better with older voters, receiving his highest approval rating among voters age 65 and over. Primary voters 18-29, in fact, were the only age group to prefer his primary opponent whom Paul defeated in a landslide. Along with this, Rand easily won conservative primary voters, while losing moderates. Rand’s failed campaign should be a lesson to future Presidential candidates: stay true to the values which got you elected by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.