Rand Paul

His charm offensive, that is, reported by National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher:

Rand Paul, who has said he knew only a single Jewish family growing up in small-town Texas, has even found his own rabbi (one he shares with Rush Limbaugh) to help him navigate the cultural divide.

“Clearly, he is making a concerted effort and a sincere effort to really build relationships,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, a political group that aims to represent Jewish interests within the GOP.

The charm offensive has two goals at its core. The first is to try to establish Paul in the foreign policy mainstream of Republicanism, particularly on the signal issue of Israel, which is of key importance to both Jewish voters and evangelical Christians. The second is to win over, or at the least neutralize, the moneyed class of hawkish Israel defenders—free-spending billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer chief among them—who Paul’s advisers know represent among the most significant impediments to his becoming the party’s next standard-bearer.

Paul has two handicaps going into the GOP nomination process. The first is his dad. If, as I’ve written before, Ron Paul isn’t actually a Jew-hater and a racist, he certainly doesn’t make it easy to defend him against those charges. The second is Rand’s libertarian tendency to want to talk shop (political philosophy) with anybody willing to engage in an intellectual discussion. That’s great fun for college students of all ages, but makes for easily-manipulated sound bytes when taken out of context. Paul the Younger had an early stumble doing just that when he first ran for Senate.

Since then, however, Paul has taken seriously the very serious business of running for President. He’s kept the shop talk private, and is now putting some comfortable distance between himself and his father on foreign policy generally, and with this Jewish outreach specifically.

He still looks like a longshot candidate to me, but he’s showing enough political savvy to shorten those odds.