“The filibuster filled the attention void on Twitter and cable TV. If only his reasoning matched the showmanship,” the WSJ wrote, adding that the president should have the right to drone enemies on U.S. soil and beyond.
Even if Paul’s meteoric 13-hour rise doesn’t materialize into a presidential run next time out, it could shape the dynamics of the race with sharpened expectations of a candidate to have the kind of chutzpah and conviction that attract a similar swath of cheering filibuster followers.
Dubbed by TIME the “savior” of the GOP, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) carved out his time on the floor last night, quoting rapper Wiz Khalifa and lending his support to Paul.
By today, though, Rubio also lent his support to Brennan, expressed in a statement that interjected himself as a point man for Paul’s signature issue.
“Earlier today, I informed the White House that I would oppose further consideration of John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director until Attorney General Eric Holder answered Senator Rand Paul’s question about whether non-combatant American citizens could be targeted by drones on American soil,” Rubio said. “Now that the question has been answered and the President has acknowledged that he does not, in fact, possess such authority, I intend to support cloture on John Brennan’s nomination and will vote to confirm him.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was with Paul for the long haul, and read supportive Twitter messages to his colleagues the Kentuckian plugged along. His campaign committee was fundraising off Paul’s filibuster today, sending supporters a #StandWithRand email featuring a photoshopped picture of the pair and a link leading to a donation page for Ted Cruz for Senate. A $13 donation — a buck for each hour Paul was on the floor — was encouraged.
Paul has hinted at 2016 aspirations, though, saying that a libertarian Republican is best poised to return the government and party to its constitutional underpinnings and appeal to voters from coast to coast.
The senator doesn’t have one of the “rock star” time slots at CPAC, but neither does Rubio: On the most recent schedule, Rubio speaks at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, followed by Paul at 1:30 p.m.
But in the world of presidential politics, where it can soil one’s chances to get anointed by special-interest and establishment groups too early, a memorable spotlight in the wee hours of the Senate can have a more lasting impact on voters than a convention keynote.
Races are invariably about more than optics, and it’s telling that Paul has been trying to display a more tempered stance on foreign policy than his isolationist father — though the senator readily espouses non-interventionist views among his more surprising turns. “Any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States,” he said in January after returning from the Jewish state, where he advocated a reduction in military aid. He’s also new on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this Congress.
But if Benghazi’s ultimately limited role in the 2012 election is any indication, Paul’s foreign policy may be the least concern of voters looking for someone with fire in his or her belly — and for a Republican Party yearning for a candidate passionate enough to outshine Hillary Clinton both with the base and beyond.
And it was a key tenet of Paul’s argument last night that will strike a chord with voters from CPAC to Anonymous (which also tweeted in support of Paul): Do you live under a government that has grown too powerful, too agenda-driven, that it can arbitrarily broaden the definition of “extremist” to constitutionally protected individuals and act against said individuals in the interest of the state?
When asked on Fox today what he might have done differently, Paul replied, “I would have eaten a bigger breakfast.”
“I was fortunate that the floor was open, and that I had an issue I cared passionately about,” he said. “And I think it’s a good idea for the country to have a real debate sometimes about does the Bill of Rights apply. Some of the questions aren’t easy.”