Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, speaks during a discussion on reforming the criminal justice system at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. on March 13, 2015
Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Why Rand Paul heard ‘silence’ in San Francisco

Updated
When next year’s presidential primaries and caucuses get underway, the early round of states will be familiar: Iowa and New Hampshire, followed by South Carolina and Nevada. California may be the nation’s largest state, but it’s also one of the last contests in the nominating process, holding its primary in June.
 
With this in mind, most presidential candidates are thinking about opening field offices in Sioux City, not Sacramento.
 
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was nevertheless in San Francisco over the weekend, opening a new office and hoping to make inroads with the area’s tech industry. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the White House hopeful’s awkward pitch.
Paul tried to stake his claim to the younger Silicon Valley tech crowd, saying, “The reason I’m in San Francisco is I want to be a different kind of Republican.”
 
On net neutrality, Paul said it was only fair for customers to pay more for faster Internet service and to let the market set the rates. “The market’s always differentiating on amounts, and it’s always differentiating on speed,” he added. […]
 
The issue is an important one in Silicon Valley and Paul’s answer was met largely with silence.
Imagine that. Rand Paul has made opposition to net neutrality one of his top legislative priorities, and he took his message to Silicon Valley, where support for net neutrality is one of the area’s top legislative priorities.
 
Making matters slightly worse, when asked about marriage equality – another important issue with a young, progressive crowd in Northern California – the Republican senator replied, “We will have to agree to disagree on some things.”
 
This seems to be a recurring problem for Paul and his outreach efforts.
 
In broad terms, a candidate has three choices when eyeing at a specific constituency. He or she can, for example, simply ignore a group, assuming its support is either unobtainable or already secure. He or she can also consider outreach, stressing some areas of common interest and downplaying differences.
 
Finally, a candidate can reach out to a constituency, reminding the group that it already agrees with practically everything he or she believes.
 
Rand Paul is extremely fond of that middle approach. When it comes to African-American voters, for example, the Republican effectively tells black audiences, “I may have raised concerns about the Civil Rights Act, criticized the Fair Housing Act, and been indifferent towards the Voting Rights Act, but I’m not bad on criminal-justice issues.” Because the bar is already set so low, he sometimes gets credit for trying to reach out at all.
 
His appeal to Silicon Valley is remarkably similar. Paul seems to realize he doesn’t agree with the tech industry on net neutrality. Or immigration. Or social issues. Or really much of anything. But he’s not bad on civil liberties, he’s on SnapChat, and he shows up.
 
The trouble is, many voters in Silicon Valley, like many voters in African-American communities, notice the inconvenient detail: Rand Paul is unabashedly hostile towards many of their key priorities. There are some narrow areas of agreement, but it’s not nearly as broad as the overlap with Democrats.
 
Indeed, the DNC circulated a quote over the weekend from Shelly Kapoor Collins, the CEO/Founder of Enscient and a national co-chair for technology for Obama for America: “As a tech entrepreneur, someone who started a company with an idea and a laptop, I’m going to be extremely wary of a candidate who wants to take away net neutrality rules and who doesn’t understand our issues. Rand Paul and San Francisco go together like oil and water, and voters shouldn’t be fooled by his claims that he’s a ‘different’ kind of Republican. He’s just not.”
 
It’s easy to imagine Paul receiving some praise for at least trying, but as a rule, most constituencies gravitate towards candidates whom they agree with, not just candidates who ask for votes. Rand Paul is convinced he’s in a unique position to garner support from groups that usually avoid his far-right party, but he’s conveniently overlooking the fact that these same groups tend to think he’s wrong.
 
The senator says he’ll do great with young people, who find his positions on gay rights and education offensive. He’ll make inroads with women, who reject his conservative line on reproductive rights. He’ll excel in the tech industry, which considers his work on net neutrality to be completely ridiculous. And so on and so on.
 
* Update: I heard from a Paul campaign official who argued the senator’s appeal to the tech community is broader, given his civil libertarianism. The staffer also flagged a series of related reports on the candidate’s event, including pieces from the AP, Bloomberg Politics, National Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, the local NBC affiliate, and BuzzFeed.
 

California, Net neutrality, Rand Paul and Technology

Why Rand Paul heard 'silence' in San Francisco

Updated