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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rand Paul’s Double Flip-Flop on Border Fences

John McCain has gotten a blast of richly-deserved negative coverage recently about his flip-flop on immigration policy, which put him squarely in the camp of the bashers of undocumented workers. But McCain will have a ways to go to top KY Senatorial candidate Rand Paul, who has just accomplished a rare double flip-flop on an important immigration issue.
Sam Stein’s Huffpo post, “Rand Paul’s Border Fence: Candidate Does Full 180, Now Supports Physical Fence” explains it thusly:

Rand Paul’s Senate campaign has clarified yet again the Kentucky Republican’s position on how to stem illegal immigration, this time fully embracing a proposal he once criticized: the construction of a physical fence along the border.
In an email statement to the Huffington Post, Paul’s chief spokesman also insisted that Paul does not, as he has stated previously and on his own campaign website, support building an underground electrical fence along the border…Several weeks ago, the Huffington Post reported that Paul had been championing an underground electrical fence as a way to detect border crossings (law enforcement officials stationed with helicopters at nearby stations would then detain those coming into the country illegally). Senate Republicans copped to having never heard of such an idea. Libertarian immigration experts openly criticized the cost and draconian nature of the proposal.
Since then, Paul’s camp has insisted that the underground electrical fence was simply an erroneous item on the campaign website, not something that the Tea Party backed candidate actually supports. But there is clear video evidence of Paul advocating the proposal on the campaign trail. In fact, in the same video in which Paul touts building a fence underground, he also talks disparagingly about the symbolism of building an above-ground structure dividing the United States and Mexico — the very proposal his campaign is now embracing.

Here is what Paul actually said in May 2009 (video here):

“I don’t like the symbolism of a 15-foot fence going the whole border. It’s extraordinarily expensive, and it reminds me of the Berlin Wall which was built to keep people in and from fleeing to the West,” Paul said. “I think you could actually put in an electronic fence under the whole border for probably $10 or $15 million, which sounds like a lot to us but that’s peanuts. And you could probably have helicopter stations in maybe five different locations, and I think you could have any breach of the border could be stopped at any point and we send them back.”

You see, he was against the above-ground electrified fence he now supports. But he was for the underground electrified fence he now opposes. Is that clear?
Apparently Kentuckians are starting to get it, and perhaps understand why even the dean of conservative columnists, George Will has described Paul as a “frivolous” candidate. For Dems, the latest poll is encouraging. As TPM’s Eric Kleefield reports:

The new survey of the Kentucky Senate race by Public Policy Polling (D) shows a tied race in this red state, where Republican nominee Rand Paul and Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway are competing for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Jim Bunning. Furthermore, it’s quite possible that the negative coverage of Paul’s past opposition to the Civil Rights Act may have done him some damage.
The poll has Paul and Conway tied up at 43%-43%…The poll finds Paul with a favorable rating of only 34%, with 42% unfavorable, compared to Conway’s rating at 31%-29%.

Sure, Kentucky is a red state. But Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, is playing a strong hand, while Paul, who also stood up for BP, is rapidly positioning himself to be the GOP’s poster boy for ‘Saturday Night Live’ ridicule in this cycle. This Senate seat is looking increasingly like the Dems’ best shot at a pick-up.

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