Kentucky senator Rand Paul announced today that he is ending his run for the Republican presidential nomination.
“It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House,” he said in a statement released to the media. “Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty.”
Paul’s withdrawal came after he finished fifth-place in the Republican presidential caucuses held in Iowa Monday.
In 2014 and very early in 2015, Rand Paul was thought by many political observers to have good chance at becoming the GOP standard bearer given the relatively strong performance of his father, Ron Paul, in his final presidential run in 2012.
In the end, however, the senator himself eclipsed by rival candidates, particularly billionaire Donald Trump who was willing and able to appeal to some of the same populist and white racialist sentimennts that were espoused by his father. In 2010, Paul seemed like he might have intended to follow the same path as he stated that he was not in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it banned private businesses from engaging in racial discrimination, a belief held by many purist libertarians. Paul backed away from this position and instead began to focus on trying to get racial minorities into the Republican coalition, even saying that he would be willing to attend a presidential debate sponsored by the far-left Black Lives Matter movement.
The Kentuckian also found some of his mojo stolen by his fellow first-term senator, Ted Cruz, who has criticized Republicans advocating a more interventionist foreign policy as unwittingly setting up the U.S. to become “Al Qaeda’s air force.” Cruz also used the word “neocon” to describe these advocates, a term which they consider to be offensive but is widely used by anti-interventionists.
The policy environment also became tougher for Paul to navigate after terrorist attacks in San Bernadino, California and around the world made it more difficult for him to argue on behalf of civil liberties and restraint in foreign policy.
“Trump got in, Trump zoomed ahead, we collapsed, and he had a massive impact in caging our people from us,” a senior Paul interviewed by Politico said. “And that, combined with this foreign policy environment, when Rand was more flavor of the month a year ago, it was before they were beheading people in the Middle East and that just really altered the conversation, the dynamic on those issues.”
Paul’s difficulty getting traction for his brand of libertarian-infused conservatism and the relative popularity of Trump’s nationalist conservatism has cast doubts on how viable economic conservatism, the core of libertarianism, actually is among Americans.