As I've probably made clear by now, I am 1) abundantly skeptical of Rand Paul's ability to be president of the United States, and only somewhat less skeptical of his ability to win the presidency; and 2) in tremendous admiration of Paul's skill at working the media. There will be abundant time to explore #1 in the months ahead, but today offers us yet another example of #2.
Paul, you see, is convening a super-secret meeting of his brain trust to discuss his upcoming presidential campaign, and somehow, news of the meeting found its way to the National Journal and reporter Shane Goldmacher:
Sen. Rand Paul is summoning his top strategists and political advisers to Washington one week after the November election for a strategy session over his widely expected 2016 presidential bid.
The gathering of Paul's top lieutenants in the nation's capital has been quietly organized by Doug Stafford, his chief political strategist, who began reaching out to key figures in Paul's political world earlier this month, multiple sources told National Journal.
Stafford has told invitees to reserve Nov. 12 on their calendar both during the day and into the night. Paul himself is expected to attend some of the meetings.
"This is the come-to-Jesus before the planned launch," said one Paul insider, who has been invited to the gathering.
The meeting of the Kentucky Republican's kitchen Cabinet has been kept under wraps, with most of the invitees not even told who else will be there. Stafford has yet to circulate a formal agenda, though few on "Team Rand," as Stafford sometimes calls the group, need to be told the talks will focus on a presidential run.
Despite all the secrecy, not one but multiple sources told Goldmacher about the meeting, but apparently no other reporters. That ensures that the National Journal will play up their scoop, and since there isn't much resembling news happening at the moment when it comes to 2016, political junkies everywhere will be interested. And the idea of Rand Paul, serious presidential candidate, is everywhere.
Just to be clear, I'm not faulting Goldmacher for writing this story, not at all. Reporters write stories about things that are passed to them by political players with an agenda all the time. There's often useful or interesting information there. The fact that Paul seems farther along in his planning than other potential candidates is important in determining how the race will play out, particularly in its early stages.
But there's no question that so far, no Republican has gotten nearly the good press Rand Paul has, and it sure looks like it's the product of careful planning and execution. Of course, his press operation and his own personal media savvy will be tested to a far greater degree when he has to react quickly to events that change on a daily basis (not to mention deal with the inevitable crises), as opposed to just rolling out a clever media hit like this every once in a while. But the other GOP candidates underestimate him at their peril.