Rand Paul: Partisan Primaries Are ‘Biggest Obstacle’ to Attracting Nonpartisan Voters

Much has been said this month, both by and about the junior Republican senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. During last week’s appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, the late-night talk show host broached the possibility of supporting Paul in a 2016 presidential run. Maher said:

“I know you’re thinking of running for President and in some states I know you can get Independents like me. I’ve said that. I am available to the Rand Paul campaign…”

As part of a strategy to reach outside of typical Republican circles, Paul did another interview with Salon.com’s Joel Keller, which was published Thursday.

In the interview, Paul shared what he believed to be the “biggest obstacle” to reaching out to voters outside of the traditional Republican base — the partisan primary.

From the interview with Keller:

You know, I think there is a great deal of possibility for any candidate who can get out of either party, that doesn’t neatly fit in either party’s mold. So I think if you had a Democrat unusual enough to get through the primary system but to appeal to people outside of the Democrat mold, they could do well. Same goes for a Republican. And I’ll often tell people that a plurality of Americans now no longer consider themselves either Republicans or Democrats, so if you’re a Republican and wanted to get Bill Maher’s vote, it’s probably a difficult sell, but the fact that he’s open and willing because he’s frustrated with both sides, I think is emblematic of a lot of people, particularly young people. I don’t think they’re wedded to one party or the other, and so I think the biggest obstacle to somebody coming out that could attract people from the middle is getting through the primary system, because you’ve got to get through a primary system that, on both sides, you know, sort of demands ideological purity, and then if someone is outside of those bounds, it’s more difficult to get through the primary system.

While assessing the field for a 2016 presidential run, it’s clear Senator Paul has a sense that voters are dissatisfied with both the Democratic and Republican parties. A Gallup Poll released last week showed Americans’ favorability of the Democratic Party dropped 6 percentage points to a record low of 36 percent. Meanwhile, approval for the Republican Party is at 42 percent and in Gallup’s terms, has yet to make “significant progress in improving its image among the U.S. population.

Paul continued:

But if you do, I’m convinced — and basically the pitch I give to people is, look, you want somebody that reaches beyond the bounds of the Republican Party because that’s how you win general elections. So I think there’s an argument to be made even in a primary that you want somebody who can reach beyond the typical boundaries of party. And frankly for us as the Republican Party, I think the demographics of the country are such that if the trend lines of our lack of ability to get African-American votes and our decreasing ability to get Hispanic votes, if those trend lines continue, I think we won’t be able to win presidential elections, period. So I’m doing a lot of things, I’m doing, not only because I think the issues are right and I believe them, but I also believe in the electoral success that whoever runs or whoever is our nominee for president will have to be someone who disrupts the normal demographic voting patterns.

Even in spite of the hurdles partisan primaries hold for Senator Paul, he appears determined to build a coalition of support that crosses party lines. What remains to be seen is whether or not this approach will result in the nomination or a spot on the do not call list.

Image: Gage Skidmore