Rand Paul became the second in a long line of GOP hopefuls to make an official presidential candidacy announcement.

Paul brings a much different dynamic to the Republican Party. One that challenges the status quo and makes many Republicans very nervous (and some very angry). The question of whether Rand Paul can win the nomination remains to be seen. Whatever happens, he will bring a dynamic to the GOP primary that forces other candidates to discuss issues they may not be comfortable with.

Paul meanwhile, is going to have to be ready for a bevy of blistering attacks from some quarters of the GOP, particularly on issues related to national defense.

Still, Rand Paul is going to shake up the race to see who will face off against the Democratic challenger in 2016. Here are 5 ways he will do that:

1. Paul will make civil liberties a priority – It’s not something that has been heard in previous campaigns. But Paul’s filibuster over drone strikes and his harsh criticism of NSA spying programs is sure to be an issue that will be front and center.

2. Criminal justice reform is being discussed – 20 years ago, politicians were all about getting “tough on crime.” Now, Rand Paul is talking about doing away with mandatory minimum sentences and changing drug laws to do away with jail sentences for minor offenses. He has also introduced legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture laws.

3. Paul has a new approach to national defense and foreign policy – If Rand Paul has an Achilles heel, this will be it. Paul’s philosophy on national defense and foreign policy would be a major shift away from where the party has been historically. While it may be a stretch to refer to Paul as an “isolationist” he does have a view of where it is not better to intervene unless it is absolutely within the interests of the United States to do so. The attack angle is actually one where he is being compared to Hillary Clinton. 

4. Paul is reaching out to constituencies others are not – A lot of people were not happy that Rand Paul met with the NAACP at Ferguson or that he met with Al Sharpton. Others have been critical of him visiting largely black universities, with critics on the left and right claiming he’s just “pandering.” What Paul is showing by doing it however, is a fearlessness that is lacking from a lot of politicians. He knows he’s not going to get the warmest of receptions, but he does it anyway. Know what it does? It leads to headlines that say, “NAACP head praises Rand Paul.” 

5. Paul is going to bring a populist message to the primary run – Rand Paul has been able to take a populist tone while still maintaining an approach that relies on free market principles and not government solutions. Still, he is not afraid to go after big business and banks and their cozy relationship with the government. He has called for a complete end to corporate welfare and has said the GOP’s close ties the business community has tarnished their reputation.

Senator Paul is by no means a shoe-in for the nomination. With what is sure to be a crowded field all vying for the same votes and donations, Paul will have to navigate some rough waters to make it through until the very end and at time when the Middle East is burning and ISIS’s reach is growing, Paul might find the reception to his foreign policy will be a somewhat cool at the very least.

Still, his official entrance into the race along with Ted Cruz (and by next week, Marco Rubio) promises to make it a very interesting primary season.


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