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Rand Paul Hopes To Court Young, Libertarian Vote In Presidential Bid


For more on Rand Paul's candidacy, joining us now is NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Welcome to the studio.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Thank you very much for having me.

CORNISH: So at today's announcement, there were actually plenty of young people in the crowd. And help us understand why that is. What is Rand Paul's appeal to young voters?

MONTANARO: And there always are at all of these Paul events; something you saw with his father, Ron, who's in his 70s and, ironically, inspired a lot of young, in particular, libertarian men. For Rand Paul, his streak of libertarianism is getting its moment now, especially because of the Edward Snowden revelations with the breadth and depth of the NSA program to track phone calls of Americans to try and detect terrorist activity. And you can hear that in the audience. When Rand Paul had that line about cell phones today, it was the largest applause line that he had. And, you know, it really resonates with young libertarians and millennials who say that they're far more alarmed by government surveillance than older voters.

CORNISH: OK, now that he's in, one of the big questions people probably have is what kind of money can he raise, right? I mean, that's been the conversation the last couple of weeks with all of these potential candidates.

MONTANARO: And we've seen so much money come into the system after the 2010 Citizens United ruling. A lot of people really wonder if Rand Paul can stack up. I have a feeling he's going to do pretty well because he has a very deep, devoted following that his father was able to capitalize on. You saw a lot of these 2008 and 2012 money bombs, as they called it, were just able to raise a million dollars in less than a day, or $2 million. And I think you're going to see a lot of those. You already saw it this morning, him raising money even before he got in.

CORNISH: OK, Domenico, you are painting a pretty strong picture here for Rand Paul. Help us understand, you know, is he a real contender in a primary?

MONTANARO: The fact is though there's a reality check a little bit for Rand Paul. I mean, his father was able to get 20 to 23 percent of the vote, especially New Hampshire, where he was able to finish in second place. But the libertarian wing only about 20 to 25 percent of the vote, and it's tough to see how Rand Paul gets above that. And the big obstacle for him really is foreign policy. When you think about what's been in the news lately - the Iran framework deal, the Islamic State militant group kind of having this rise to power in Iraq - now the hawks are back. And it's hard for Rand Paul to have his politics of peace and negotiation and somewhat of a nonintervention to really take center stage whereas it had had a little bit of a moment a year or two ago. That's very much changed this time around.

Now, when it comes to a general election, he has some other kinds of difficulties, not necessarily foreign policy, but it would be more so on fiscal policy. When he talks about the debt and bringing down the debt numbers, well, that's going to start Democrats asking questions like, well, what would you cut? And we've seen other times when Republicans have had some difficulty having to explain what they would cut, and it's not very easy to sell.

CORNISH: That's NPR's political editor, Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.