For Rand Paul, it’s perfect timing – and he has Mitt Romney to thank for it.
As the buzz from last Friday’s disclosure that Romney is considering a third presidential bid and has called his Granite State supporters continues, the Kentucky senator heads to New Hampshire on Wednesday to meet with activists and talk about issues he hopes will distinguish him not only from Romney, but also from the other major establishment likely GOP candidate – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
If Romney and Bush become candidates – and it is expected they will – it’s good news for Paul, who is viewed as the leader of the conservative/libertarian side of the presidential field, at least in New Hampshire.
He has already done significant groundwork. He was in the state several times last year, including keynoting the NHGOP Unity Breakfast, campaigning for Republican midterm election candidates, making a generous contribution to the state party. As early as last April, Paul was featured in a lineup that also included Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz – as well as Donald Trump – for the American for Prosperity “Freedom Summit.”
Paul has not sat still in New Hampshire, as others potential candidates have. Through his own visits and the work of his RAND PAC, he has been building – and re-building — relationships and putting together the makings of a campaign operation. Another plus for Paul is a base of libertarian-minded support that pushed his father to a second place finish, behind Romney, in the 2012 first-in-the-nation primary.
The stops in tomorrow’s visit will reflect the key constituencies Paul hopes to keep on his side – and attract.
“Obviously he is not a declared candidate yet,” RAND PAC chief strategist Mike Biundo told the New Hampshire Journal, “but we are doing all the groundwork that needs to be done in case he does end up getting in.
“You know how New Hampshire is,” Biundo said. “There is a lot of blocking and tackling and a lot of informal meetings with key constituencies and making sure you are making the right phone calls and meeting the right activists and issues leaders, and elected officials.”
Paul will begin with a “Legislative Leaders” a breakfast meeting a Murphy’s Diner in Manchester. Biundo said Manchester GOP chair Tammy Simmons is “putting together” the event along with Murphy’s owner Keith Murphy.
Lawmakers who have so far committed, Biundo said, are Reps. Carol and Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, as well as Rep. Larry Gagne, R-Manchester.
Paul will then focus on the right-to-bear arms in a meeting with what is being billed as “Second Amendment supporters” at the Londonderry Fish and Game Club, which is located in Litchfield.
A key event will come in the afternoon at the Founders Academy, a charter school in Manchester, where Paul will be involved in a question-and-answer session on the Common Core program, which Paul has opposed and has criticized Bush for supporting.
Paul, referring to Bush, told the conservative Breitbart News last week, “I think the party is big enough to have moderates in the party. When we have a primary, voters will have to pick whether they want a moderate leading the party or a conservative. That’s what the primary will be about, people presenting their ideas and they’ll have to decide whether they want Common Core, whether they want more spending, more taxes, whether they want a candidate who will not pledge to not raise taxes.”
While Granite State establishment Republicans rejoiced in Romney’s likely return, Paul made it clear that he intends to draw stark contrasts with the 2012 nominee.
He told Fox News Radio today, “I like Governor Romney, I like him personally, I think he is a good person, I think he was a great businessman. But you know that’s yesterday’s news.
“He’s tried twice. I don’t really think that there is a third time out there,” Paul said. “I think he did a lot of things right, but in the end you got to have a bigger constituency, you got to get new people, you got to attract new people to win and I think it’s time that probably the party is going to be looking for something fresh and new.”
After his meeting at the charter school, Paul will meet with business leaders and activists at The Draft Pub, owned by former Ron Paul supporter state Sen. Andy Sanborn, in Concord.
Biundo said the schedule “has the makings for what you would typically see for someone feeling out New Hampshire and thinking about whether to run.” Such stops and such meetings, he said, “are critical to the New Hampshire Primary. It’s proven to be the case every four years that meeting with those types of folks and putting in the hard work early pays dividends, if someone is going to run.”
And for Paul, the timing couldn’t be better for him to begin to make his case.