Some prominent Palmetto State Republicans will accompany White House hopeful Rand Paul when he launches his South Carolina primary race Thursday at the U.S.S. Yorktown.
For the U.S. senator from Kentucky, who is trying to dispel concerns that he is too isolationist, the choice of the aircraft carrier as a backdrop offers the chance to appeal to pro-military S.C. voters.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and state Sen. Tom Davis are expected to give remarks at Paul’s event. U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., will not attend but has contributed a video, he told National Journal.
Paul could face a favorite-son candidate in South Carolina’s GOP primary who could offer a contrast on foreign policy. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca has said a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy will be his top issue if he runs for president. Recently, Graham has stepped up his criticisms of Paul.
The appearance of Sanford and Davis underscores Paul’s appeal to S.C. libertarians, many of whom are not fans of Graham’s mainstream, pro-military brand of Republicanism.
The lawmakers have close ties.
Paul was a special guest at a fundraiser for Mulvaney, who is from Indian Land, for his 2014 re-election campaign and endorsed Sanford, from Mount Pleasant, in his 2013 U.S. House race.
Graham also endorsed Sanford and is the godfather of one of his sons.
Mulvaney, who could not be reached for comment, said in a 2013 interview with U.S. News and World Report that he would be “more than interested” in helping Paul if he decided to run for president but had not committed to anyone.
Tuesday, Paul became the second Republican to announce he is running for president, following U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Paul’s S.C. stop is part of a tour of early primary states. However, Paul already is facing questions about whether his foreign policy positions are too timid.
The location of Paul’s S.C. announcement is “designed to convey the message that he is not an isolationist,” said Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan.
“He’s playing toward the rap against him: ‘Hey, you’re a dangerous isolationist (who would) let the world fall apart.’ ”
“Our (Republican) voters are much more hawk than dove – and if you fly with the doves too much, you just might end up on a dinner plate,” S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore told the Wall Street Journal.
Weighing his own run for the White House, Graham said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that perhaps only Paul would strike a worse nuclear deal with Iran than Democratic President Barack Obama.
“The best deal I think comes with a new president. (Democrat) Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side, except maybe Rand Paul, could do better,” said Graham, who has said the United States must do more to stop terrorists abroad, including using ground troops.
Graham on Monday told The State that Paul is a “good guy.” But, Graham added, Paul’s approach to foreign policy “is a step behind leading from behind” – a common GOP criticism of Obama – and will not “sell” in a pro-military state.
Entering the race, Paul has made efforts to counter his isolationist image.
In announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Paul said he would not support a nuclear deal with Iran that did not end that country’s nuclear ambitions. He also said he would insist Congress approve any deal.
Paul, who has supported airstrikes on ISIS, also said he would “do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind.”
“I’ve always considered Rand Paul to be the classical Republican,” said Davis, R-Beaufort, who campaigned for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the senator’s father, when he ran for president in 2012.
Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower were similar to Paul, “making sure that we’re safe,” Davis said.
Davis said Rand Paul provides a contrast to the “hyper-interventionist foreign policy” of Graham and others, aimed at being everywhere in the world all the time to try to control world events.
Paul also has a broad appeal to a “true rainbow of people,” building on his father’s libertarian base, said Charleston businessman and GOP activist Mallory Factor, who co-hosted a fundraiser Wednesday for Paul.
In the 2013 U.S. News article, Mulvaney said voters might have dismissed Ron Paul because the then-Texas congressman was “far too extreme to them.”
The younger Paul would be “much more marketable than his father” in a national campaign because he “knows how to deliver the libertarian-leaning conservative message” and “comes across as extremely articulate and the farthest thing from crazy or extreme.”
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Rand Paul in S.C.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., brings his 2016 White House campaign to Mount Pleasant on Thursday
Where: U.S.S. Yorktown, Patriots Point
When: Noon to 1 p.m.
Want to go? The event is free