Rand Paul had his best debate of the primary season, prompting some GOP pundits to wonder if we may have a new and improved Rand Paul joining the race! In Tuesday night’s Fox Business GOP debate, the senator from Kentucky scored some major points on both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Could it lead to Paul gaining some traction in the polls?
Let’s start with Paul’s shot at Donald Trump (the money line comes at about 1:10 into the video):
Twitter reactions were fast and furious and funny.
— Evan Shapiro (@eshap) November 11, 2015
“Hey Gerard, we might wanna point out China isn’t part of this deal.” Rand Paul’s best line in any debate yet.
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) November 11, 2015
Why was Rand Paul the only person on the stage who knew that China was not part of the trade agreement.
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) November 11, 2015
— David Blanton (@ThehandEman) November 11, 2015
It was a bad moment for Trump (though this one was worse), and it laid bare the fact that his rhetoric on trade is not just simplistic, it’s naïve. While many of us conservatives agree that TPP is a bad deal (for a whole host of reasons), Donald Trump’s argument against it has nothing to do with the problem!
Okay, the other Rand Paul moment that had people talking was his shot at Marco Rubio’s “unconservative” plan to add $1 TRILLION in spending to the military. (Yes, that says TRILLION!) While many of us conservatives support a strong national defense and a fully funded military, we are also against massive government spending. Yet, somehow no other conservative has been willing to speak out against Rubio’s massive spending increase, solely because it risks sounding like they are against defense spending.
While Rubio got in a shot reminding GOP voters that many Republicans think that Rand Paul is an “isolationist,” Paul was too strong, asking questions that Rubio simply could not answer.
Paul questioned how Rubio could claim to be a conservative when he was for lavish government spending on defense. “I know that Rand is a committed isolationist,” an irritated Rubio shot back.
But Paul was not to be silenced. “How is it conservative,” he asked again, “to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You cannot be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you’re not going to pay for.” Rubio insisted that “the world is a safer place when America is the strongest military power in the world.” Paul refused to concede: “No. I don’t think we’re any safer—I do not think we are any safer from bankruptcy court. … This is the most important thing we’re going to talk about tonight. Can you be a conservative, and be liberal on military spending? Can you be for unlimited military spending, and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to make the country safe?’ No, we need a safe country, but, you know, we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined?”
Rubio seemed confused by the exchange—taken aback that anyone would question his platitudes, least of all on foreign policy.
While many Republicans may not agree with Paul’s foreign policy vision, the exchange surely must have caused some to wonder if he was indeed right. How can someone argue for “conservative” fiscal policy while spending 1 Trillion NEW dollars on the military? The two ideas are at odds.
So, will Paul’s strong night translate into momentum in the polls? Or was this simply a bump in the road for the other leading candidates?