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Gwen Ifill talks to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today about Sen. Rand Paul’s evolving role in the Republican party, predictions about how Hillary Clinton might announce a presidential campaign and how the Iran nuclear deal framework may play out on the 2016 race.
Tomorrow, we expect Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to officially jump into the ever-expanding race for the Republican presidential nomination. He is not the first. Senator Ted Cruz announced last week. And he won't be anywhere close to the last.
What better time to talk about that, and other political things, than politics Monday?
Joining me are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today.
Was Rand Paul only last week? It feels like it was two weeks ago.
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:
I know. It's all just dragging.
It may have been two weeks ago.
Let's start by talking about Rand Paul. Today — we're always looking for tea leaves. And, today, there were two. There was the video that he put up, of which we can show a bit.
In fact, let's just show that now, very interesting, the tail end of it.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) Kentucky: It's time for a new way, a new set of ideas, a new leader, one you can trust, one who works for you. And above all, it's time for a new president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
It should be said, that is not his announcement, even though it sounded like it, but it was something that his folks put up on YouTube today.
And then if you looked at his Web site, his senatorial Web site, they changed it. They completely overhauled it. And if you look at it now — the old one is on your left. On April 2, it looked like the regular senator's Web site. The one on the right talks about revitalizing America and he is looking upward and with the big American flag. Looks very much like a campaign.
The American flag is always the getaway, the giveaway.
That's always the giveaway, yes.
Who is Rand Paul and what is he up to here?
Well, that is an excellent question.
It should be less of a complicated question, Gwen, than it is, which is, who was Rand Paul? When he was elected in 2010, he was the Tea Party darling. He upset the front-runner in a Kentucky Republican primary in 2010 who was the handpicked candidate of Mitch McConnell, who is now, of course, the Senate majority leader.
He came in as sort of a rebel. He was a — he worked for his father, libertarian Ron Paul, on his campaign. We thought he was going to be a guy that was going to sort of take Congress to task. He has had a very conservative voting record. That's for sure. But he has backed away from that initial Rand Paul.
He came in saying, let's cut the military budget, let's cut foreign aid, let's make sure that we are challenging on, you know, a lot of the orthodoxy, Republican orthodoxy. Instead, he has now backtracked on a lot of those things, especially on foreign aid, now that he is thinking about running for president.
SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:
So he is not his father's son.
But think about this. His father ran for president three times, was never taken seriously, even though he scored some victories. He took over some state parties. He had a real identifiable base of support.
Rand Paul has done more legislation than his father ever did and is a more credible Republican nominee than his father ever was. And part of that is not hewing to the kind of straight libertarian line that his father did. Now, maybe that cost him some of the credentials he had of being a really authentic person. Certainly, that was one of the characteristics he came in originally.
But if you're thinking about being a serious nominee, serious contender for the nomination, that's what he has done.
Is there a base, is there a money base among libertarians for Rand Paul?
So, that's the really good question, because Ron Paul did very well in these so-called money bonds, right, where he had the grassroots libertarians. They would go, you know, run through hot coals for him and gave him a lot of money online. He raised a ton of money in the 2012 campaign.
Rand Paul may not be doing as well among that group, but theoretically he can expand his reach into some more of the Tea Party groups and more of the establishment. Where I have a problem seeing his ability to run as sort of a consensus candidate is that hawkish wing of the party in the establishment I don't think are ever going to forgive or take him as seriously as he wants to be taken, given what his past has been.
We expect his announcement to come tomorrow.
So, let's go on. And Marco Rubio apparently is dropping big hints all over social media…
… that he is going to announce next week.
And the other person everybody is waiting for of course is Hillary Clinton. And we have heard, Susan, that she is going to make an announcement by way of social media? Is that the latest version of this?
Well, think about what candidates need to do when they announce.
Ted Cruz, when he announced, needed to get people to notice him. He needed to get some attention. He needed to gather some names and e-mail addresses to use for fund-raising and other purposes. Hillary Clinton, she has got nothing but attention, and she's got millions of names.
What she needs is to, in a way, reintroduce herself to Americans in a slightly different way. So I would expect her to do something that is a little less traditional than what we are seeing from Rand Paul tomorrow. I think it will be smaller, more intimate, very much use of social media to try to say, I'm an authentic person. I understand your lives. I am worried about you. I'm approachable.
And who is her audience, Amy? Is it Iowa? Is it New Hampshire? Is it people who are worried that she is not getting out there?
Well, a lot of it is to us, right?
We're paying a lot of attention to this.
And I think that Susan is exactly right. It has to be less about her and more about the audience, which is: I know everybody has been focused on who I am. What I need — and what she needs to tell them is, I need to tell you why I'm going to be working for you. And this is not an entitlement that I get the nomination or that I get the presidency. I can't wait to work every single day to get your vote.
That would be the message, I think, that she needs to give and I think that will hear.
Let's talk about an issue — an issue question. I know, horse race, we love that, but let's talk about an issue question. Our friend Dan Balz wrote a column this weekend which caught my eye. It was about the invisible tie that binds among Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, she a former secretary of state, he the current secretary of state, and the current president, President Obama, over Iran.
No matter what happens with this nuclear deal, you can see that the president is trying to sell it. He has put his metal on the pedal, as it were. But the three of them are all bound. It has got to work for them, or it affects everybody, doesn't it? It's like dominoes?
Kind of a brilliant column, I thought. It really was smart, in that Obama's biggest foreign policy is an Iran deal, if he can get it, the same for Kerry.
And one of Hillary's biggest problems is going to be if this doesn't work, if this collapses in some ways, if this becomes kind of a global mess. And one thing that struck me when I was reading Dan's column was, think about the presidents who have really engaged on Iran. It has never ended well. The Iranian hostage crisis helped unravel Jimmy Carter's presidency.
The worst scandal Ronald Reagan had as president was the Iran-Contra scandal. This is very tricky stuff.
It's the challenge as well. It's the temptation to fix it, as well as the challenge in fixing it.
Well, and this is going to be the very interesting thing for Hillary Clinton going forward.
We talk a lot about the problem on her liberal left on some of the Wall Street issues. I think the bigger issue is going to be on foreign policy. Remember, she's a lot more hawkish than a lot of Democrats are, certainly than even the president is, on some of these issues. She was a lot more skeptical on Iran — she said so in her memoir — than this president is.
What is she going to talk about on all of those issues going forward in a primary, where, as we know, the last time around, it was Iraq that really tripped her up?
We're ready for this to get started.
Yes, we are.
Amy Walter, Susan Page, thank you very much.
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