The Surprising-to-Many Alliance of Rand Paul and Connie Mack
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But they have forged a close alliance in recent years that resurfaced once again this week when Mack cheered Paul’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Paul offered a response for the Tea Party Express while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., gave the Republican response to Obama. Both Rubio and Paul have been mentioned as possible candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
While Paul is flying high, Mack is recovering from major setbacks in November. Mack was the Republican nominee taking on Florida Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom many regarded as vulnerable earlier in the election cycle. Instead, Nelson destroyed Mack, burying the Republican in a 13 percent margin landslide. Mack’s wife also went down to defeat in November -- voters threw out then-U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., who lost out to Democrat Raul Ruiz.
Despite his family’s losses in November, Mack resurfaced to weigh in on Paul’s response to Obama’s State of the Union address.
“Senator Rand Paul is right – America must cut spending and balance our budget,” Mack said before pitching his “Penny Plan,” which would reduce the size of federal spending 1 percent a year until the budget was balanced. Paul was a supporter of Mack’s idea in the Senate.
“The Mack Penny Plan, which I introduced in the 112th Congress, prescribes a common-sense way to balance our budget,” Mack continued. “It’s a simple plan that every family and every business has had to do themselves. The federal government must do the same. I appreciate Senator Paul’s leadership on fixing America’s finances and I look forward to doing all I can to help him in his effort to make the Mack Penny Plan the law of the land.”
Despite their different political styles, Mack and Paul also teamed up in sponsoring a vote of no-confidence against then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in 2011. It went nowhere. Paul also endorsed Mack over former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux when it appeared there would be a contentious Republican primary to take on Nelson.
The two have a lot more in common than their staunch fiscal conservatism; they also share a robust commitment to civil liberties, one which has often pitted them against the mainstream of the GOP, and even of the tea party. Mack voted against the 2005 and 2011 re-authorizations of the Patriot Act and against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The votes were over concerns for privacy rights and for potential violations of constitutional due process for American citizens suspected of terrorism. (Each of these votes put him at odds with Rubio.) Mack was even an outspoken defender of activist whistleblower Julian Assange of "Wikileaks" fame.
Still, the alliance between Paul and Mack only goes so far. While Paul has his eyes on the White House, Mack is more likely to back a candidate from Florida -- either Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Paul and Mack stood behind opposing candidates last year during the Republican presidential primaries. Paul was behind his father, then U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who was making his third bid for the White House. Mack was very active in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential efforts. Ron Paul endorsed Mack very late in the 2012 election cycle, backing the Florida Republican's bid to topple Nelson at the end of October, months after Rand Paul backed Mack.
Jeff Henderson is a political writer who lives in Tallahassee. Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.