Taming the Pander Bear

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

I can’t believe it’s 2015 and I’m writing about Bushes and Clintons like it’s got-dam 1992 — but what are you going to do? Apparently, I’m going to miss stories like this one about Rand Paul completely reversing course on gay marriage:

At a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, Rand Paul practiced pandering. The senator from Kentucky will announce that he is running for president in less than two weeks, and it seems the pressure to be all things to all people is resulting in the breakdown of his political brand, with the latest example being his newly articulated position on marriage.

He conceded to the evangelical crowd, which included Dr. Jerry Johnson, CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, that there is a “moral crisis in our country” and more specifically, “a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage” in addition to heterosexual, or “traditional,” marriage.

To solve the crisis, Paul called for a religious revival and lost himself.

Now that’s from Olivia Nuzzi at the Daily Beast, and you shouldn’t expect her to give much of a fair & balanced report on Paul. But while you might not care for her tone, Paul just backed right off of getting Washington (and maybe even the states) out of the marriage business — and flung himself into the arms of the social conservative wing of the GOP.

I came across Nuzzi’s piece at Outside the Beltway, where Doug Mataconis has a thorough roundup of Paul’s flight from his previous, more libertarian stances on several issues.

Paul’s recent comments, as well as the interview from 2013, have the potential to undermine another part of the coalition his strategists seem to be relying upon in the upcoming campaign. One part of that coalition, of course, are libertarian oriented voters including, but not necessarily limited to, the people who supported his father’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Seemingly anti-gay rhetoric such as this from Paul doesn’t seem as though it is going to go over very well with this crowd. As one of those potential supporters, I can say that my opinion of Senator Paul has diminished the more he has pandered to the social conservative wing of the GOP, and rhetoric like this just makes that pandering seem all the worse. This group of voters may not be very large in many primary states, but it has been enthusiastic in the past but in terms of willingness to volunteer for campaigns and turn out to vote. If Paul starts to turn those voters off, then that makes the task of staying near the top of the GOP pack all the more difficult.

I think Paul has misread his GOP primary constituency and done considerable damage to his brand. He may still have time to get back to his political roots, but the longer he waits, the more difficult the job becomes — and the more he’ll look like he’s reverse-pandering out of desperation.