Thursday’s Fox News GOP debate may have been the surge in momentum that Rand Paul’s campaign desperately needed before the Iowa caucus on Monday.
After being relegated to the undercard debate a few weeks ago (and refusing to participate), Paul returned to the main stage last night and stood out as a clear winner.
While he has struggled to make his voice heard above the noise in previous debates, this time the senator was given much more time to discuss his unique positions on criminal justice reform and national security.
Criminal justice reform, in particular, is an issue that has not been discussed in previous Republican debates.
“I’ve been to Ferguson, I’ve been trying to look for solutions to our criminal justice problem,” Paul said. “I think something has to change. I think it’s a big thing that our party needs to be part of, and I’ve been a leader in Congress on trying to bring about criminal justice reform.”
On national security and terrorism, issues that have been heavily discussed in previous debates, Paul was able to explain his views, which differ substantially from the other candidates.
Paul said it’s a “really, really bad idea” to be bombing both sides of the war in Syria.
“I’ve said for several years that arming the allies of ISIS will make the situation worse, that what we really need to do is defeat ISIS. But if you defeat Assad, what you will wind up with is a larger and more powerful ISIS that occupies that space. You might — you may well see an ISIS that takes over all of Syria,” he said.
He received enthusiastic support from the audience in Des Moines, as well as the national audience on Twitter. He was declared social media’s favorite candidate of the night by Brandwatch React, which found he had received the most positive sentiment with the online audience.
Paul also came out on top of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s online debate poll with 26.9 percent support, although when all was said and done, “I miss Donald Trump” had more votes than any one candidate.
Others took to Twitter to remark about the enthusiasm of the crowd towards Rand, and their support for many of his statements.
@RandPaul is having his best debate by far -- and talking stuff no one else has -- black folks, poverty, civil forefeiture.— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) January 29, 2016
Paul said he is very confident that he will get the “liberty vote” in Iowa over front-runner Ted Cruz, and was able to hit Cruz for not showing up to vote on his “audit the Federal Reserve” legislation that fell short in the Senate this month.
In his closing statement Paul made a plea to Iowa Republicans calling himself the “only true fiscal conservative” in the race.