The perception has been that Rand is weak on foreign policy. Last night, Rand positioned himself as someone who not only knows what he’s talking about, but is actually strong on national defense. Going after Rubio on immigration and tying that issue to the issue of terrorism was brilliant. With this he was able to get ahead of those who have in the past attacked him as weak on this issue, and he is now controlling the conversation.
Cruz, while trying to steal some of Rand’s thunder, and getting the opportunity to do so by being asked first about issues that him and Rand agree on, actually ended up helping Rand. There’s no doubt that at the moment Cruz is very popular among conservatives–more so than Paul. You have to imagine that Rand was happy to have Cruz there to help defend those positions that in the past have been considered “out of the mainstream.”
Cruz is better at defending those positions in thirty-second responses, which is why it was beneficial for Rand to have Cruz be the one that was attacked for them. What Cruz accomplished was soften up the Rush and Levin listeners for Rand to pick up should Cruz begin to fall. After last night, Cruz is to Rand what Trump is to Cruz; a source of potential voters that now see him as a viable alternative.
Rand was the only candidate who brought up the national debt. While the debate’s theme was terrorism, Paul decided to dedicate some time at the end to remind voters of the issue that before the Paris attacks, to them was the most important. Paul understands that as we get closer to the Iowa caucuses, the economy issue will again rise in level of importance, and he will benefit from continuing to bring this up while other candidates do not. “We borrow a million dollars a minute” Rand said. I can’t think of a simpler way to explain to a voter, the trouble that we are in as a nation.
Rand did more than just survive. He may have made huge progress in changing the perception that has been hurting his chances with many voters who are used to saying “I like Rand, except on foreign policy.”
While some of his supporters have been wishing for Rand to behave more like Trump, the fact is that when it is time to vote, I believe the majority will be looking for a candidate who they perceive as being reasonable and well-rounded. Rand may have just turned one of his perceived weaknesses into one of his greatest strengths.
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