The first thing Sen. Rand Paul did after he officially announced he was running for president—after sitting down for an hour-long interview with Sean Hannity—was to participate in his first Facebook primary. But while social media can help an unprecedented number of voters to connect directly with politicians, that doesn't mean politicians have to be any more forthcoming than they are in person.
On Monday, Facebook announced it would be hosting an online town hall with Paul after he declared his candidacy for president in Louisville, Ky. Facebook users inundated Paul's page with questions on topics from Common Core (he opposes it) to his go-to karaoke song ("I don't want to pick just one"), but Paul was careful not to make much news with his responses. He reiterated that he opposes Obamacare, supports auditing the Federal Reserve, and wants to implement congressional term limits to "send career politicians home."
"What does the U.S. have to do to get our budget and deficit under control?" one Facebook user asked.
"First of all we need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Congress has proved itself incapable of balancing the budget," Paul responded. "Next ... we need a President who will submit a fully balanced budget to show them how to do it. I will be that President."
Another user asked Paul if he would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, as Sen. Ted Cruz has pledged to do.
"The IRS is too big. Too powerful," Paul said. "This administration in particular has used it to go after it's political enemies. During this campaign I'll introduce a new simple tax system that will get the IRS out of your life."
The questions Paul chose not to answer were perhaps more illuminating than the ones he did. In no particular order, here are a few of the topics Paul did not answer questions about: gun control, abortion, Iran, immigration, the Patriot Act, the gold standard, marijuana legalization, GMO labeling, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In response to a question about Israel, Paul simply linked to his platform.
And though he railed against the National Security Administration in his presidential announcement, he declined to answer a question about Edward Snowden, the man who brought the NSA's domestic-spying program to light. The question amassed nearly 1,300 Facebook upvotes.
While the Facebook town hall may not have been terribly enlightening, it shows just how much Paul is trying to carve out a space as the most digitally savvy candidate in 2016. And from buying Google ads to troll his opponents, to selling goofy campaign merch, to working out an ingenious Twitter strategy, it's been paying off for him so far.
One question in the Facebook town hall, however, took on the most polarizing topic in the U.S. "Is the dress blue and black, or white and gold?" In the Internet-fueled campaign, where candidates don't have to interact as much with reporters if they don't want to, these are the incisive questions we can anticipate. Then again, political reporters aren't above asking questions about The Dress, either.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.