If you went only by the media, you'd think that Rand Paul was a legitimate contender to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Time magazine put him on its cover, calling him "The Most Interesting Man in Politics." Politico magazine said --literally--the same thing. Top Obama aides agree. In fact, huge swaths of the media concur that Sen. Paul is "interesting."
But it's not clear why, as an electoral proposition, there's anything interesting about him at all. Here are four reasons Paul is likely to underperform in 2016 and almost certainly won't win the GOP nomination.
(1) Rand Paul is a conventional political dynasty candidate. People seem bothered by having Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton as dynasty candidates, but for some reason Paul gets a pass on this-no one complains that he'd never be a senator running for president if his name was "Rand Johnson."
But unlike Bush and Clinton, who are trying to forge new political identities distinct from their names, Paul is not. Paul is trying to modify, but only slightly, his political identity from his father's-he wants to be thought of as "libertarian-ish." But this amounts to merely a tweak to his father's brand. The essentials of the Paul electoral proposition--withdrawal from foreign entanglements, state's rights, criminal justice reform--are virtually identical for both father and son.
For all intents and purposes, Rand Paul is running the third iteration of the Paul presidential campaign.
(2) Paul 1.0 was a niche product. At this point in the 2008 cycle, Ron Paul did not exist as a political commodity. Rudy Giuliani led in the polls with support in the high-20s to the low-30s. John McCain was a comfortable second, in the mid- to low-20s. Mike Huckabee, who would be the last man standing when McCain clinched the nomination, barely registered. When Paul made the polls, he was at 1 percent.
Paul didn't take off until October of 2007, when he began polling around 3 percent nationally. By the eve of the January Iowa caucuses, Paul was polling between 7 percent and 9 percent in Iowa. He finished the actual caucus just shy of 10 percent. It was good enough for fifth place and it would be his best showing in a contested race for the duration of the campaign.