Campus Libertarians Without a Candidate?

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Although Kentucky Senator Rand Paul ran a very successful event at the University of Minnesota in the fall 2015, he announced on February 3, that he has dropped out of the race. As reported by the Minnesota Republic back in November, Rand Paul attracted some 150 excited members to his rally here on campus, filling the venue. Rand Paul’s drop out of the Republican primary means that their will no longer be an ‘official’ libertarian candidate for Republicans to support. Paul’s early dropout could have some deep repercussions for the 2016 Republican primary, now lacking a clear and unwavering voice against big government. For some the result of this is that candidates such as Donald Trump or Marco Rubio, who are proponents of at the very least, keeping government the same size, may push the debate and overall rhetoric of whomever is the eventual Republican candidate away from libertarian principles. These concerns were expressed by Amanda Lord, Vice President and Recruitment Coordinator of Students for Rand, who insisted that “unfortunately, I cannot say that I support anyone else running for the GOP nomination.” This could present a very serious problem. Despite Rand Paul’s low poll numbers, there is still a significant amount of libertarians present within the Republican Party. Many of these individuals may react less than favorably toward the Republican candidate if it becomes clear that they are not committed to the ideals that libertarians value most. However, Chaz Fenske, Vice President of Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Minnesota, pointed out that during the debates for the most part “there was [not] much emphasis on libertarian values….so there isn’t much to worry about that isn’t there.”

Libertarians en mass may be willing to stand behind one of the candidates that the Libertarian Party puts forward in the 2016 Presidential election. Lord echoed these beliefs, stating that “I would most likely support Gary Johnson or whomever is the libertarian candidate now for the presidential election.” Furthermore, she stated the possibility of starting a student group to support the candidate which the Libertarian Party puts forth. However, according to Young Americans for Liberty President, Nathan Amundson, not all libertarians may be as willing to leave the GOP. For instance, Amundson stated an interest in supporting a GOP candidate for the nomination and presumably the presidency.

Interestingly, Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father and often considered the main force behind the modern libertarian movement in America received a much higher percentage of caucus votes in 2012 (around a quarter of voters) as compared to the results for Rand Paul, who came in under five percent. However, much of this may be attributed to the large field of candidates on the Republican side, as Fenske indicated “it would be silly to think he would get the nomination this time around with Cruz and Rubio polling so well.” Many attribute presidential candidate Donald Trump for stealing a large amount of the media hype from Rand Paul, who had started the campaign season as the mover and shaker within the Republican party. However, even at the beginning of his campaign Rand Paul had a rocky time with the media, including being berated by Megyn Kelly on the Kelly File for his tone with NBC “Today” co host Savannah Guthrie. Nevertheless, Rand Paul was quite frequent on the Kelly File, often to discuss the anti-civil liberty policy statements made by Donald Trump.

In his dropping out of the presidential race, Rand Paul, did indicate that he intended to run for reelection of his Senate seat, and will without a doubt keep spreading and playing an integral role in shaping conservative debate.