1. "Paul Ryan’s Contradiction," by Juliet Lapidos. The headline names the other Paul — Paul Ryan (who came out in 8th place, with 3%, in the CPAC poll), and it turns out Rand Paul isn't in the article at all. Why did the search pull that up? A good guess would be that Ayn Rand appears in the article to add the Rand to Paul, but that didn't happen. It's just an item about Paul Ryan at CPAC, and how his statement that people "want a life of dignity... a life of self-determination" undercuts his concern that people will become dependent on government programs. "See the contradiction?," Lapidos asks. Read her article for instruction if you don't.
2. "Trying to Revive His Prospects, Rubio Pushes Strength Abroad," by Jonathan Martin. This one really does mention Rand Paul, beginning in the 5th paragraph. Paul, who is "wary of foreign intervention," comes up as contrast to Rubio's "muscular brand of foreign policy." If you make it to paragraph 11, there's a quote from a Paul adviser saying that Paul "rejects the label of isolationism" and "believes in a strong national defense, and an America that leads the way in the world and engages with other nations," but then it's back to the news that Rubio is a "hawk" and "Republican hawks believe that Republicans’ calling for a more aggressive response in Ukraine reveals that Mr. Paul is out of step with his own party." And Bill Kristol is quoted saying that Rand Paul is an "outlier" on Ukraine and Republicans don't want the U.S. to "unapologetically stand aside as Russia invades Ukraine."
Here's the Politico piece on the CPAC straw poll. Rand Paul got 31%, and his closest rival, Ted Cruz, got 11%. Rubio is down at 6%, below Scott Walker (7%), who skipped CPAC this year.
Douthat's column, which seems obsolete after the poll, is his take on CPAC. Skim to paragraph 14 for the first mention of Rand Paul. Republicans named in preceding paragraphs (as Douthat explains the 4 factions," none of which is libertarian):
1, 2. John McCain and Jon Huntsman, who in past elections represented the "centrist" Faction #1.
3, 4. Mitt Romney and Bob Dole, representative of the "moderately conservative" Faction #2.
5, 6. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, examples of the "socially conservative" Faction #3.
7, 8. Gingrich and Steve Forbes, the "very conservative but more secular" Faction #4. (For some reason, Douthat refers to Gingrich — and Gingrich alone — with no first name.)
9. Ronald Reagan, who won by "consolidating secular and religious conservatives and then wooing enough moderate conservatives to win."
10. Lamar Alexander, a centrist.
11. Pat Buchanan, a social conservative.
12. George W. Bush, who appealed to "moderate conservatives and religious conservatives." (Why was "religious" swapped in for "social" at that point?)
13. Chris Christie, combining "moderates and moderate conservatives." (Is that supposed to be Factions 1 and 2? If you're going to write about 4 factions, keep the labels clear. Reading on, I can see Douthat meant "centrists and moderate conservatives," Factions 1 and 2.)
14, 15,16. Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush — all moderate conservatives who could undercut Christie, leaving Christie with only the centrists.
17. Ted Cruz, who might combine Factions 2, 3, and 4 (especially if Huckabee and Santorum stay out of his way).
And so, after 17 Republicans have been slotted into a faction or factions, we get to "the fascinating case of Rand Paul." He's fascinating because he combines "a potentially formidable base in two factions that don’t usually ally — moderates who like his social libertarianism and secular conservatives who like his economic views." Has Douthat heard of libertarians? Libertarians should have been one of the factions, but now they're some strange combo of Factions 1 & 4.
Douthat's next sentence is "Confused yet?" Were you trying to confuse your NYT readers? Is the idea that the Republicans are an incoherent mishmash? The next sentence reinforces the theory that the GOP is adrift:
Imagine being a Republican strategist or donor, trying to figure out where to place your bets. And I haven’t even given you the Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal and John Kasich scenarios!So now 21 Republicans have been named. What's the one name we haven't seen yet? It's the one Jonathan Martin pumped up with "muscular" "strength" earlier in the week: Marco Rubio. Rubio, Douthat tells us, may be able to do what good old George W. Bush did, win by appealing to religious conservatives and moderate conservatives, combining Factions ##2 and 3. Douthat ends this way:
[Rubio is] not the front-runner, because there is no front-runner. There are only factions waiting for their champion, and a party waiting for its biggest fight in years.I'd say there is a front runner. It's Rand Paul, whose rise to the top has not come as a result of insinuating his way into the good graces of one or two of the old factions Douthat has laid out for us.
Is Douthat out of touch? Maybe he's very much in touch... with what the NYT readers want to hear: The GOP is stuck trying to win the votes of disparate sets of old-fashioned or wishy-washy Americans, and it's unlikely to get its act together by 2016. Within that comforting message, Rand Paul is static.
UPDATE: The NYT has an article "Rand Paul Wins Conservative Straw Poll," dated yesterday (March 8), written by Jonathan Martin, which did not appear when I searched for "Rand Paul" using the NYT search box when I first wrote this post. This article says: "A version of this article appears in print on March 9, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition."
AND: Right now, mid-afternoon the same day this post went up, a search for "Rand Paul," restricted as above to the last 7 days, gets 10 hits. What happened? Did the NYT have his name suppressed within the search tool? I count on those searches to mean something! I relied on it.