Doug Stafford is running Senator Rand Paul’s PAC and joined me on today’s show:
HH: I’m joined now, though, by Doug Stafford. He’s the executive director of RandPAC, as in RandPAC. You might have guessed, that is Senator Rand Paul’s political action committee. Doug, welcome to the program, great to have you on.
DS: Thanks. Great to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Am I right, your Twitter handle is @dougstafford?
DS: That sounds right.
HH: All right, I want people to be able to find you. Doug, first, what’s RandPAC up to? What does it exist to do?
DS: It exists to promote the causes and the political phase that Senator Rand Paul goes around the country, it helps to help other candidates around the country who believe similar things. He was very active, as you probably remember, the most active senator, the most in demand person campaigning for Senate candidates, helping them retake the majority last fall, and it’s been great working with him on that project.
HH: What’s your average donation to RandPAC?
DS: Oh, you know, very low. I’d say roughly around $70 or $80 dollars, but I don’t know that off the top of my head. I’d have to take a look and combine it out with www.randpaulforsenate.com, because I kind of look at those, both of those numbers all the time.
HH: Now the buzz, this is sort of a process interview. I talked to principals about substance. I love to talk to operatives about operations.
HH: They say that Rand, Senator Rand Paul, has got the youngest demographic, that he attracts the youngest voters. What’s your data on that show?
DS: Yeah, that’s definitely true. He does the best among, when you look at polling among young people, he definitely has the issues that resonate with them. You can see it when you go across the country, and he’s able to go to places like Berkeley and get a standing ovation. And you can see it also in things like the followings he has on places like Facebook, with almost two million people following him on Facebook, and interactions on social media like Instagram and Snapchat where a lot of younger folks are. He definitely leads the field among most politicians with things like that.
HH: Now that’s counterintuitive because of the turtlenecks. Honestly, Rand Paul is the only place I see turtlenecks more than on Rand Paul is when we watch Love, Actually at Christmas time.
DS: I have no comment on the turtleneck.
HH: (laughing) Are you trying to make a change in the Senator’s attire?
DS: Absolutely not. The Senate wears whatever he likes.
HH: All right. Now I had Mike lee in studio for an hour on Monday, and I asked him where are you in the presidential thing. And he said look, Cruz and Rubio and Paul are my three best friends, and so I’ve got no dog in that hunt. It does seem odd, doesn’t it, that the four mavericks are all kind of, three of them are at the gate and the fourth of them is running a tax plan?
DS: Yeah, you know, look, all of those folks have worked together in the Senate to go after government spending. They have a lot of the same ideas on controlling the size of government. Senator Paul thinks, though, that he can best represent both those things and potentially reaching out on other issues like reaching out to young people, like going to places that Republicans haven’t been before very often, like the Urban League and historically black colleges talking about criminal justice reform, and also standing up for the whole Bill of Rights. He thinks he can add a little bit extra to the mix, but he is, had great success working with Senator Lee, who’s a good friend of his, and Senator Cruz and others in the Senate.
HH: In the New York Times this afternoon, I quote from a story. “At first, Senator Cruz stated that ‘Rand Paul is a good friend of mine. He and I have fought side by side many times.’ But then Mr. Cruz recalled an attempt in the Senate to overhaul the once-secret National Security Agency program that collects records of American phone calls in bulk. When the vote came up in November, Cruz said, ‘unfortunately, Rand voted no.’ At the time, Mr. Paul said the bill did not go far enough in curbing the NSA, while Mr. Cruz said it was imperative to protect the Bill of Rights. ‘It failed by one vote,’ said Cruz, one of only four Republican Senators to vote yes. The final vote actually fell two short of the 60 needed, according to the Times. But Cruz attributed that procedural quirk, claiming that Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, changed his mind.” What about that criticism? And do you expect that to be the bone of contention between Cruz and Paul on the New Hampshire campaign trail?
DS: Well, you know, look, I think Senator Paul has proved over the last couple of years that he leads the way on protecting the 4th Amendment, fighting the NSA. The fact is that that bill not only didn’t go far enough on curbing NSA abuse, but it actually reauthorized multiple expiring sections of the Patriot Act. And Senator Paul just felt he couldn’t vote for that. He had opposed those extensions in the Patriot Act multiple times in other places and venues, and he didn’t think that the essential reforms in the bill were good enough, nor did he think they were worth the trade-off to be voting for an extension of the Patriot Act.
HH: Now there are a dozen debates scheduled by Chairman Priebus. I get to participate in one of them. Who knows who’s going to be in the other ones? Is that enough from Senator Paul’s point of view? And is he going to play by those rules?
DS: You know, I expect so. I think the folks have looked at it and thought there were just a few too many last time. But you know, we definitely respect the Chairman’s efforts to try to both limit them and kind of control the outcome a little bit more and not have folks that are just enemies of Republicans up there asking questions and getting free shots at all the candidates.
HH: I’m talking with Doug Stafford. He’s the executive director of RandPAC. You can follow him on Twitter, @dougstafford. All right, so Doug, what is the path for Rand Paul to the nomination, assuming that he declares for president soon along with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio? Where’s he have to win and how soon does he have to win?
DS: If he chooses to go, I think that he has to compete in all of the early states, and he’s actually one of the best set to do so. He can compete in all of the early caucus and primary states, and has a great shot at success. What he has to do is show folks that a conservative who has some libertarian leanings, who wants smaller government, who will come out with a bold tax plan, who wants to balance the budget in five years and put out term limits, but also can reach across the aisle and do things like be leading in polls against Hillary Clinton in purple states like Pennsylvania and Colorado, that that’s the recipe for success for the Republican Party in 2016.
HH: And has he taken a position on Mike Pence’s Indiana law and the law in Arkansas?
DS: He hasn’t. He’s been out of pocket the last couple of days, and he also tends to have a rule of not weighing in on specific state-level controversies or bills. But just as a general notion, you know, he does believe we have to figure out a way to preserve folks’ religious liberty. He has not spoken and probably won’t, because he hasn’t read any of the particular bills.
HH: Do you expect a statement to be forthcoming after he’s had a chance to catch up?
DS: That’s normally been, he doesn’t tend to comment on specific legislation, but I’m sure he’ll weigh in further on more just on the general concept. But as I said, his belief has been we need to find a way to figure out how to promote and keep folks’ religious liberties, while at the same time not opening up anyone for discrimination.
HH: Last 30 seconds, Doug Stafford, Rove says you need $50 million bucks by March 15th to compete, anybody. You agree with that number?
DS: I do. I think Senator Paul, if he chooses to go, will be able to do that.
HH: Interesting. Doug Stafford, executive director of RandPAC.com, follow him on Twitter, @dougstafford.
End of interview.