Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday became the second officially announced Republican candidate for president in the 2016 race, joining fellow senator Ted Cruz in a field that could grow to nearly a dozen candidates.
Paul faces very long odds of securing the GOP nomination given that his libertarian views on a range of issues from drug laws to a non-interventionist foreign policy are well outside the traditional Republican mainstream.
Paul and his advisors believe that the iconoclastic senator can build a new coalition within the GOP fueled by the libertarian stalwarts who backed Paul's father, former congressman Ron Paul, coupled with younger Republicans eager for a fresh face and skeptical of the business-aligned, hawkish establishment.
There is no question that Paul has a unique ability to charm younger Republican voters with his focus on personal privacy and a tech-friendly approach that has taken him repeatedly to Silicon Valley to build a network of ideological and financial supporters.
But Paul has a long way to go to turn these early efforts into a winning presidential campaign. He trails Jeb Bush, Cruz and Scott Walker in early polling and has a net unfavorable personal rating. He also has a reputation as prickly and defensive with the media, something that could hurt him in the grueling months ahead.
Paul's presidential lane is also perhaps the most complex to navigate among the current and prospective GOP field. It holds great potential but Paul must retain his father's core supporters—who thrill to isolationist and bash-the-Fed rhetoric—while also appealing to an establishment that finds those views highly dangerous.
Paul's libertarian views also do not always sit easily with evangelical conservatives who favor a much stricter approach on gay marriage and other issues. Paul has moved in the direction of evangelicals in recent weeks, possibly looking to blunt Cruz's appeal to this group, telling a conference in D.C. of the need for a new religious "revival" in America.