Steve Kornacki of Slate makes the case:
Rand Paul was in South Carolina on Monday and will soon make appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire. On Monday he told reporters that “the only decision I’ve made is I won’t run against my dad. I want the Tea Party to have an influence over who the nominee is in 2012.” An unnamed “Paul family advisor” also told CBS News that “there’s better than a 50/50 chance that there will be a Paul in this race.”
While it’s hard to envision Paul actually winning the GOP nod, improving on his father’s performance in the 2008 primaries seems entirely possible. Ron Paul finished fifth in Iowa with 9 percent and fifth in New Hampshire with 8 percent, then became a media afterthought. Given that he began the campaign with no money, no name recognition and no expectations, this represented a remarkable showing; he ended up beating Rudy Giuliani — the early GOP front-runner — in nearly every state in which they both competed. But it was also something of a disappointment, given the tens of millions of dollars Paul was able to raise and the free media he attracted. The New Hampshire GOP electorate, with its fierce libertarian bent, seemed a particularly promising audience for his message, and his campaign had hoped to break through with a much stronger performance there.
The best-case scenario for Paul would probably be replicating what Pat Buchanan achieved in 1996: a surprisingly strong showing in Iowa (he nabbed 23 percent, good for second place), followed by a startling win (with just 29 percent of the vote) in New Hampshire — at which point a panicked GOP establishment rallied around the strongest non-Buchanan candidate (Bob Dole) and denied him the nomination.
And James Antle of the American Spectator gives his two cents:
The case against Paul running is obvious. The voters in Kentucky just elected him in November. Like Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and a host of other recently elected promising Republicans, he should wait until he has accomplished more. For those of us who think a successful Senator Paul could do better than the Buchanan ’96 campaign, a concern might also be that becoming a perennial candidate by running too early could undermine that. It could also hurt his support at home in Kentucky if voters there think he’s only using their Senate seat as a stepping stone to his own ambitions.
The case for Paul running is that he’s simply a better politician than his father and would move the ball farther than either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson could. As a senator, he’d have the luxury of four years to mend fences with Kentucky voters. Paul could bring the constitutionalist message to the forefront of the Republican primary debates without getting sidetracked into theoretical discussions of libertarianism. And a premature presidential campaign in 1968 ultimately didn’t hurt Ronald Reagan.
To me, the biggest thing Paul has going for him is that he is perfectly attuned to the Tea Party GOP. He is actually saying something with a degree of specificity that puts to shame the current crop of GOP presidential contenders. He has, for instance, put forward a 5-year balanced budget. Among its high points:
Brings spending near historical average in very first year
Reduces spending by nearly $4 trillion relative to the President’s budget
Achieves a $19 billion surplus in FY2016
Brings all non-military discretionary spending back to FY2008 levels
Requires the process of entitlement reform, including Social Security and Medicare, with final implementation by FY2016
Does not change Social Security or Medicare benefits
Block-grants Medicaid, SCHIP, foods stamps, and child nutrition
Provides the President’s request for war funding
Reduces military spending 6 percent in FY2012
Eliminates four departments:
Department of Commerce (transfers certain programs)
Department of Education (preserves Pell grants)
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Energy (transfers nuclear research and weapons to Department of Defense)
Never exceeds $12 trillion in debt held by public
Creates $2.6 trillion less in deficit spending relative to the President’s Budget
Extends all the 2001 and 2003 tax relief
Permanently patches the Alternative minimum tax
Repeals Obamacare taxes