Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who brought his father Ron Paul’s anti-interventionist outlook into the Republican mainstream, is ending his presidential campaign.
Paul in a statement Wednesday suggested that he was dropping out to focus on his Senate reelection bid. On Monday, he fared poorly in the Iowa caucuses, the first vote of the 2016 campaign.
“I will continue to carry the torch for liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term,” he said.
Paul alienated pro-Israel Republicans almost as soon as he assumed office in 2011, when he embraced his congressman father’s longtime call to cut defense assistance to Israel. The younger Paul later backtracked, saying he regarded Israel as a close ally, and would only cut assistance once it was clear it was self-sufficient in its defense needs.
Still, whereas the GOP marginalized his father, who three times ran for president – twice for the Republican nod and once as a Libertarian – Rand Paul’s views were mainstreamed, especially when it seemed, around 2014, that he might have a viable shot at the presidential nomination.
Rand Paul’s sharp criticisms of the allegations of domestic spying by the Bush and Obama administrations has found resonance in the campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who won in Iowa. And Paul’s unapologetic blasting of the George W. Bush administration for its Iraq invasion, once unimaginable for Republicans, has now become routine for Cruz and real estate billionaire Donald Trump, who finished second in Iowa.
A measure of Paul’s mainstreaming was evident in the statement of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., emerging as the favorite of the pro-Israel and interventionist right-wing, who came in third in Iowa.
“As I said, we have had some policy disagreements on foreign policy,” Rubio said in a campaign email. “But by and large, one thing I respect about Rand is that he is a true and real believer in what he stands for. The liberty movement needs to be a part of the conservative Republican coalition, so we would welcome them in as part of unifying this party, absolutely.”
CNN on Wednesday quoted two Republican sources as saying former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would also drop out, winnowing the Republican field to nine candidates.
Santorum also was convinced by a poor performance in Iowa to leave the race.
Santorum, who stressed during this campaign his longtime history as a backer of Iran sanctions, was unable to replicate his early 2012 success, when he rallied to win in Iowa over Mitt Romney.