Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost-certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, there’s a budding counter-campaign to take him down if he becomes a threat to actually win the nomination.
At the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man—and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, laid into Paul’s more isolationist views on foreign policy beliefs. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.
On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.
“The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each others’ support,” said one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.”
Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions are may well put a target on his back.