Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may follow in his father’s footsteps not only by seeking the Republican presidential nomination, but also by receiving the Libertarian Party’s ballot line.
Members of the Libertarian Party are bracing for an internal struggle over whether to back the libertarian-leaning senator if he appears poised to win the Republican nomination in 2016.
Paul is unlikely to directly seek the third party’s support, but could win it anyhow through the work of eager activists like those who worked the campaigns of his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a GOP presidential contender in 2008 and 2012 and the Libertarian nominee in 1988.
A co-nomination from one of the nation’s most significant minor parties could help Paul – if he’s the Republican nominee – avoid losing hundreds of thousands of votes to an ideological ally. In some states, his name would appear twice on ballots.
If Paul is nominated by both the Republican and Libertarian parties, it could also unleash electoral scenarios unseen in decades, such as the negotiation of a fusion slate of electors. Libertarians could, theoretically, nominate their own vice presidential candidate.
Though the Libertarian Party’s Orlando, Florida, nominating convention isn’t until May 2016, Libertarian National Committee Executive Director Wes Benedict foresees a fight.
“If Rand Paul wins the Republican nomination, I’d expect a big fight within the [party] over whether or not we should run our own candidate,” Benedict says. “It wouldn’t just be a discussion.”
Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark, officially neutral on the matter, says “there is a possibility that the delegates in Orlando would nominate Sen. Paul and if they were to do so, I’d work hard to support their choice.”
The Republican primary season will be well underway when the 1,000 or so Libertarian convention delegates gather. If Paul appears poised for victory in the GOP race, they would have several options.