Ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele Calls Rand Paul 2016 GOP Presidential Frontrunner

The 2014 midterm elections are underway today, which means that the 2016 presidential contest unofficially begins tomorrow. While most political strategists say that the 2016 Democratic primary is Hillary Clinton’s to lose, the GOP side is competitive and packed with rising stars. One such star, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, was just named Time‘s most interesting person of 2014.

On the November 2, 2014 episode of NBC‘s Meet the Presshost Chuck Todd, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, and former Obama administration press secretary Robert Gibbs participated in a round-table discussion on the 2016 presidential race. In the above-embedded video clip from the show, Robert Gibbs said, “I will say, as a Democrat sitting here, you have to be impressed with what Rand Paul is saying, to have a positive talking point before the election I think is hugely important, and I think Jeb Bush is one to watch.”

When Chuck Todd asked Michael Steele for his pick for the 2016 Republican frontrunner, Steele said, “Rand Paul… Right there. Done. He’s got the organization on the ground right now. He’s in all 50 states. He’s got young folks gravitating towards him. He’s got African Americans taking a pause and looking at him. He’s got, as was just acknowledged, Democrats are starting, ‘OK, let’s listen and see.'”

Andrea Mitchell interjected, “But the party establishment is against him.”

Steele replied, “That’s a separate piece. I think in terms of ’14, he’s done the best to put it together.”

Joe Scarborough disagreed, saying, “Rand Paul is going to run a great race. He’s going to do better than his father. He’s not going to win, because mainstream Republicans win, and you’ve got two choices that we’ve talked about here, Jeb or Chris Christie. But no, who had the best 2014? Without a doubt, Mitt Romney.”

Senator Paul also appeared on last Sunday’s Meet the Press to discuss the 2014 midterms, criminal justice reform, and repairing the GOP’s brand. The Washington Post notes that the Senator is the “go-to Republican for 2014 candidates trying to rally a crowd, raise money and court the tea-party activists and young people drawn to his insurgent message.” Rand Paul has been aggressively campaigning in an effort to help Republicans maintain their House majority and flip the Senate.

The Senator has sent signals that, if he decides to run for president in 2016, he might declare his candidacy in early 2015. As it happens, Senator Paul recently announced an early 2015 release date for his third book.