Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is many things (ophthalmologist, the most interesting man in politics for like a month or so), but one thing he's never been is particularly friendly with reality TV mogul Donald Trump. Who can forget this moment from the Sept. 16 GOP debate?
RAND PAUL: I think really there's a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I'm very concerned about him -- having him in charge of the nuclear weapons, because I think his response, his -- his visceral response to attack people on their appearance -- short, tall, fat, ugly -- my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?
JAKE TAPPER: Mr. Trump?
DONALD TRUMP: I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter right there.
So it's an open question as to whether Paul -- whose concerns about Trump's juvenility and his ability to contain himself from unleashing America's nuclear arsenal earned him the response, "Yeah, but your dumb face, though" -- could possibly support a candidate who promises to entirely dispense with the libertarian philosophies that have long been essential to Rand's brand. Or, it was an open question, until he was asked about it Wednesday. Per Politico:
Sen. Rand Paul hesitantly conceded that he would support Donald Trump in the general election if the real estate mogul were to win the Republican nomination.
"Yeah, I think it would have to happen," Paul said Wednesday during an interview with MSNBC.
Sure, man, you know, when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one candidate to throw his support behind a guy he loathes utterly, you know, I think it would have to happen. Stirring stuff.
Paul, of course, is still pretty sure that Trump won't be the nominee. "I think there's a very good chance that Trump doesn't win in Iowa," he said, adding, "I think that the veneer comes off, and I think he'll struggle in New Hampshire as well."
So a couple of things are clear. One is that Rand Paul reads Vox. But a second, and perhaps more pertinent thing to all of Trump's opponents in the GOP field, is that it was vastly silly for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to have bound all of his candidates to a pledge to support the eventual nominee -- a move that was deemed to be required solely because of Trump's candidacy. Had Trump not been part of the field, it wouldn't have been necessary for Priebus to check with everyone and ask whether they'd be supportive of their party's nominee.
Sure, the idea at the time was that a possible independent run from Trump could pose an existential threat to the GOP's hopes to win the White House -- a concern that this "pledge" nominally put in check. But when Trump signed on, he claimed a deal breaker for himself (the vague demand that he be "treated fairly") which essentially voided the spirit of the pledge right from the start. Now, as Trump's own campaign is doing damage to the primary means by which he'd gather the financial resources no self-fund an independent run -- the ephemeral market perception of his brand name among "high-end consumers" -- it's looking more and more like Priebus should have called his bluff.
But it's more startling to see Paul greet the prospect of standing behind his hated rival with such diffidence. After all, Paul himself is not a part of the "GOP establishment" and the voters that form the base of his support would likely find it inspiring for Paul to break from this pledge on principle. Perhaps this is why that base of support isn't turning out in numbers sufficient enough to grant Paul entry into this week's main GOP debate.
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