Rand Paul's New ConfidantSubmitted by RandWatcher on Fri, 06/20/2014 - 09:07
Why the Kentucky senator and Nate Morris became fast friends.
BY SHANE GOLDMACHER | National Journal
As the bus came to a stop near the Dead Sea, Nate Morris and the rest of the gang had one question: Would Rand Paul jump in? "It was a big joke, because we were all wondering," recalls the 33-year-old businessman, who was part of a large group visiting Israel with Kentucky's junior senator. Paul quickly answered in the affirmative. He took off his hiking boots, an orange button-down, and a gray "Army Strong" undershirt, then waded into the salty waters wearing flowered swim trunks. He smeared mud across his cheeks and his bare chest; he raised his arms in triumph.
It was January 2013, and Morris was one of some 50 Americans who had joined Paul for the tour of Israel. Although President Obama hadn't even technically begun his second term, Paul's trip clearly had implications for the next presidential race. The destination itself suggested he was seeking to reassure establishment Republicans that he did not share the hostility of his father—GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul—to the Jewish state. The guest list, meanwhile, read like the manifest of a ship bound for 2016. The state party chairmen of Iowa and South Carolina were there, along with Iowa's Republican National Committeewoman and key religious leaders. When I asked David Lane—the politically active evangelical leader who organized the trip—how the invitees had been chosen, he answered with a question of his own: "What are the first presidential primary states of 2016?"
Yet Nate Morris, a Kentucky resident, did not hail from an early-primary state. Nor was he a religious leader. Nor was he particularly vocal about Israel. Nor did he even know Paul all that well: The two had met only a few months before.
So why was Morris on the trip? Kentucky is not exactly a rich state, but Morris had carved out a reputation as a man with a talent for shaking loose campaign cash. Back in 2004, he was, at 23, by all accounts the country's youngest bundler for George W. Bush, raising at least $50,000 and becoming a "Bush Maverick." His list of contacts had only grown in the years since. "People in politics know who raises money," Morris says. "That's not a secret." In short, Morris was just the kind of moneyman Paul needed if he was going to pursue his presidential ambitions.
But in the 18 months since they rode around Israel together, Nate Morris has become much more than just a fundraiser for Paul. He is today an integral part of the Kentucky senator's political infrastructure: one of Paul's most trusted advisers and—perhaps most important for a politician with a cloistered reputation—a friend.