In the last 24 hours, there has been mounting speculation about Rand Paul, the freshman Republican senator from Kentucky, running for president in 2012. A writer at Salon says he has the potential to be the Pat Buchanan of this election cycle. The Buchanan of 1996, that is. Paul himself has said, "The only decision I've made is I won't run against my dad."
The case against Paul running is obvious. The voters in Kentucky just elected him in November. Like Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and a host of other recently elected promising Republicans, he should wait until he has accomplished more. For those of us who think a successful Senator Paul could do better than the Buchanan '96 campaign, a concern might also be that becoming a perennial candidate by running too early could undermine that. It could also hurt his support at home in Kentucky if voters there think he's only using their Senate seat as a stepping stone to his own ambitions.
The case for Paul running is that he's simply a better politician than his father and would move the ball farther than either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson could. As a senator, he'd have the luxury of four years to mend fences with Kentucky voters. Paul could bring the constitutionalist message to the forefront of the Republican primary debates without getting sidetracked into theoretical discussions of libertarianism. And a premature presidential campaign in 1968 ultimatelty didn't hurt Ronald Reagan.
It will be interesting to see how this story develops.