Senator Rand Paul has made a name for himself as one of the few Republicans willing to rail against the surveillance state.
He’s worked closely with a similar-minded colleague on the other side of the aisle, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), to end the bulk collection of metadata and reform other NSA practices. Paul has made NSA reform a key part of his presidential campaign, building off of a recent 13-hour filibuster during which he tried to block renewal of the Patriot Act.
Paul also used this topic to hit pro-NSA candidates like Governor Chris Christie for wanting to expand spying without a warrant during the first Republican debate.
This week, Paul continued his crusade against warrantless spying during a trip to Utah, home of a massive NSA data storage facility.
Paul has recently embraced a strategy of visiting states, especially ones with caucuses, where his father Ron Paul performed well in his previous presidential campaigns. According to a campaign newsletter sent by Paul’s chief strategist Doug Stafford, Paul wants to visit parts of the country many presidential candidates simply write off.
“This week Senator Paul made campaign stops throughout the northwestern United States, from Alaska to Utah,” wrote Stafford. “As the Washington Post noted, this is all part of a long-term strategy to pick up support from delegates who other candidates are disregarding. Senator Paul is running to disrupt the status quo, and this is the latest example of that.”
This effort comes on the heels of Paul fading in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Given the depth of the Republican field, there’s a good chance the nominee won’t be decided too early, so Paul’s strategy of focusing on caucus states, where motivated grassroots activists have more influence over the process than in a primary, makes sense.
Expect Paul to continue hitting surveillance state themes. It’s an issue that shores up his base and one that makes him a “different type of Republican,” a theme he hit hard in the first presidential debate.
Being unique could help Paul recover in a crowded field where other contenders have been drowned out by a fascination with Donald Trump. Whether Trump will fade moving forward, opening up space for other candidates, remains an open question.